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The Bee side - Pension: payment

Now here's some information for you. Apparently the one-millionth word is about to be added to the English language. I mean, how good is that? I don't know how they know it, but experts are saying that the tally of 995,844 'official' words that currently exist are being added to at such a rate that our millionth word will probably pop up on April 29, 2009.

I don't know what type of leeway they've built in to their calculations, but I'd guess that a day or so either side couldn't be ruled out. Mind you, one way or another we'll soon have word number 1,000,000 in the bag just waiting to be used by anyone who fancies crafting it into their written output, with the hope of both impressing and confusing their readers at one and the same time. I reckon that to start with people will see the word, wonder what it means and turn to their out-of-date dictionary to see what the writer's on about and decide either that they can't spell or that they type too fast.

That's the trouble with a new word I suppose; it's not that much use to start with, is it? On the other hand, the millionth word will probably pick up a bit of press coverage and it'll therefore become well-known a bit more quickly than other new words. But just because we get a new word it doesn't mean we'll necessarily use it; oh no!

Get this: right now the average person uses just 14,000 of the words that we've already got. So once the millionth word comes along that'll be a cool 986,000 words that Joe and Josephine Average will be leaving on the shelf. I calculate that means that for every word your average person uses there are over seventy that they don't. Even the linguistically gifted (like me) aren't in too different a position. We use about 70,000 different words, or to put it another way, just one in every fourteen that are available to us. So why do we need new words in the first place?

Well that was my immediate reaction on first reading this stuff until I came to think about it a bit more. Having done so I now think we need a new word for pension. I've got two reasons for that.

First off, I've noticed over the years that the pension word is a bit boring: it puts people off. So I think we could do with something a bit more on the dynamic side that might perhaps make the whole subject of pensions more attractive to people. Secondly, if you look into it you'll find that the concept of a pension - that is, getting an income in retirement - doesn't get the whole word 'pension' to itself. It has to share it with small French hotels.

There are a couple of ways we could sort that out I suppose, maybe by getting French pensions to call themselves auberges or something similar; or, and this is where it hit me, we could come up with an entirely new word for pension so it wouldn't have to name-share in future. And that's just got to be the way forward hasn't it?

Any suggestions, just pop them in an email to the editor...

Steve Bee

First published in Pensions Management, September 2008