A new list of the most common nouns in the English language published in the latest Oxford dictionary reveals that English speakers are obsessed with time, Oxford University Press (OUP) researchers said on Thursday.
The word ‘time’ topped the list, with ‘year’ in third place and ‘day’ in fifth position and ‘week’ at 17th. ‘Person’ reached number two on the list but men are still on top, with ‘man’ ranking at number seven, ‘child’ at 12 and ‘woman’ trailing at 14.
‘Work’ appears at number 16, while ‘rest’ and ‘play’ are nowhere to be seen in the top 100. ‘Money’ appears not to be as important as people might think, weighing in at number 65, although researchers thought this could be due to the multitude of other related words such as ‘cash.’
English speakers talk about ‘war’, 49th, far more than ‘peace’, which does not even feature in the top 100. The common nouns section appears in the revised eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, considered as the definitive guide to the evolving language.
The dictionary’s content is taken from the Oxford English Corpus, which contains a billion words. OUP project manager Angus Stevenson said the frequency with which words such as ‘time’ and ‘man’ occur could be down to the love of phrases in English such as ‘I would not even pass the time of day with him’, and ‘time waits for no man.’
"The thing that struck me when I put together this list was that 90 per cent of the top 100 words were one syllable," Stevenson said. "A large proportion were actually from Old English, meaning the basic words we use all the time in basic sentences are from before the Norman Conquest,” he said.
OUP researchers used the Internet as a guide to everyday English usage, examining online newspapers, weblogs, bulletin boards and fiction.