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50,000 Words and Still not the Right One


An ex-colleague of mine was writing an angry email. As was sometimes the case, especially if it was HR related, I was asked for my opinion. Well for starters don’t write an email when you’re angry. Anyway his email was explaining how what was already bad was being made worse. In fact exaggerating the problem. Tactfully I suggested that exacerbate might be a better word to use. This was a word the gang in the crib room was unfamiliar with. It was a word I just happened to know.

Studies have shown that the average English native speaker has a vocabulary of about 20,000 words. With some people, especially those who have stayed longer in education, knowing around 40,000 words, which increases further with age to close to 50,000. Interestingly a 5 year old will recognise about 10,000 words. However, generally we rely on about 5,000 very common words that are used repeatedly.


As a manager who was responsible for devising a raft of policies and procedures, it really didn’t matter if I knew 50,000 words ur no. What mattered was making myself understood. For that I needed to generally rely on the 5,000 words everyone was familiar with. Sometimes I just can’t help myself, I have a compulsion to use the appropriate word but I also have an obligation to be cognisant of the requirement to be understood.


Today, (22 Feb), I'm scribing this at the Headland Unit. I’m having my treatment as I write. So distractions all around. All sorts of people are here, it’s a full house. I notice the patients are all generally white British (am I allowed to say that?) The only BAME people I see seem to work here. I'm fascinated by the diversity around me. Living in Cornwall the hospital is probably the most diverse community any of us will

experience, with the attendant belief systems that a diverse community has. It reminds me of the long gone comedian Dave Allen who, at the end of his act, always raised his glass and quietly toasted his audience with the words "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you." Probably a man ahead of his time.


As I’ve mentioned previously I don’t particularly subscribe to any belief system but I have the utmost respect for those that do. Although having been brought up in the Methodist Church probably gives me leanings towards Protestant Christianity. So when I'm sent prayers I humbly accept them with good grace. My good friend TE who followed a similar path as me found himself drawn to God in his final weeks. It definitely served him well. If for him and countless others God exists then who am I to argue? I, on the other hand am not expecting to meet my maker, go to a better place, be reunited with those who've gone before or get my 72 virgins because I’ve died in battle, albeit battling cancer.



No, the view I subscribe to is akin to the views of the late Stephen Hawking. As for life after death he believed the brain is like a computer that will simply shut off. I am however not completely closed to alternative explanations. I do like a good debate. After all I am called Neil D Bate.



I do nonetheless believe in a kind of Life after Death. For me however will I be in the hearts and minds of those who trod my path with me, however long or fleetingly, however close or far away, whether in person or vicariously, if you remember me then, in a way,

my life will go on.


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