A Word a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

A Word a Day Keeps the Doctor Away



Noun: jouissance

Physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy.

Origin: French, from jouir ‘enjoy’. Used by Lacan in his Ethics of Psychoanalysis, he intentionally left it untranslated to avoid the ambiguities of the word, ‘pleasure’.

On 2nd September 2020, 50,000 users learned this definition. Tomorrow, a new word will light up the screen.

Dropping the hefty Oxford English Dictionary (OED) onto the dinner table is likely to turn heads whilst checking your mobile phone will create a different reaction.

Dictionary apps help you to expand your vocabulary in an efficient, convenient and accessible manner, less tedious than trawling through the dictionary. In April 2015, BIGGIKO OOO released the Word of the Day: Learn English app so one can learn a new word in seconds. Along with the daily word sourced from the OED, this successful app shows the etymology, definition and application of the word. The words are sourced by English professors and personalised depending on your results from an initial vocabulary assessment. The app is becoming increasingly popular having received $30K in revenue by this August.

The way in which we express ourselves forms the foundation of how we are perceived. The app claims to help you to “sound smarter”, however studies have shown that it helps you be smarter. Ironically, jouissance encapsulates the intellectual delight provided daily by the Word of the Day App. The surge of dopamine (the chemical messenger associated with gratification) that is released on receiving a notification causes the word and definition received to be stored long-term. Therefore, your bodily reaction to learning new vocabulary in the form of a notification associates the information with a reward response, optimising memorisation and recall. This system of delivering the information separates this particular dictionary app from others such as Merriam Webster or Magoosh.

Our language is growing at an average rate of a thousand official new words per year. Just as it is important to keep up to date with the ebb and flow of the news, we must do the same with linguistic evolution. Whilst the team of OED editors might have been having a little too much fun with sesquipedalianism (the practice of using long, obscure words), without this growth in vocabulary problems of misapprehension arise. This might only seem an issue of theoretical importance, however examples of challenges arising through a limited vocabulary suggest otherwise. In Mexico, the language, Yucatec Maya, has developed not through formalisation, but through word of mouth. Rather than inventing new words, they make do with original ones. For example, a hammer is referred to as ‘stick to hit with’, which appears sensible until you visit a Mayan building site where workers attempt to knock nails into a door with a chair leg.

The beauty and precision of the esteemed English language, which evades these ambiguities, is slowly dissipating. The average time per day that a person reads has halved over the past 15 years, whilst use of everyday slang has tripled. According to Pew Research Center, the richest adults are three times more likely to read than those with a household income lower than $30K. The Word of the Day app offers a free, easy alternative to learning vocabulary compared to more time-consuming methods. You can learn a new word in the same number of seconds that it would take to check a text.

To download the app for iOS or Google Play, visit: www.wordwordapp.com

By Olga Bate


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