Paul JJ Payack, after all the run-up, has botched the story of the millionth word. The most amusing thing was that he forgot to write a script that would stop updating his headline when the millionth word was hit and exceeded, so at 11:30 a.m. in the UK he had this headline at his Global Language Monitor website:
The English Language WordClock: 1,000,001
0 words until the 1,000,000th Word
Oops! I think that should be minus one words, not zero words until the millionth!
The other thing he screwed up on was the fixing of the choice of word. He let his script decide — not a good idea when the whole point of the exercise is promotion and P.R. I'm not sure how his script works, but what it finally picked as the millionth "word" with at least 25,000 attestations on the web turned out to be: Web 2.0. Oops! First, that isn't a word, it's a phrase containing a noun (web) and a one of those stylish postpositive decimal numeric quantifiers; and second, it is boring boring boring. If phrases containing numbers are allowed, no wonder there are a million words. I was scheduled to go to the BBC Scotland studio and talk about this in a couple of hours, but when the people at the BBC World Service heard that the millionth word was Web 2.0, and that among the runners-up was the two-word Hindi exclamation jai hoo, they dumped the story and told me not to bother going over to the studio. Quite rightly. Payack should have hand-picked a more convincing and likable word.
In addition, he should tell us what his criterion is for including phrases on his list. Recent "words" added include cloud computing, carbon neutral, slow food, shovel ready, zombie banks, overseas contingency operations, and ("word" no. 1,000,001) financial tsunami. How could anybody, however scanty their linguistic general knowledge, think all these were words rather than phrases?