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About OWAD

Why One-Word-A-Day?

Mark Twain rightly said "My education started the day I left school". But who of us at work has time for learning English? One answer is to integrate continuously learning English into our working day. Easy to say, hard to do! Unless the material is relevant and the method is fun. Hopefully you will find One-Word-A-Day both useful for your work and also entertaining.

The History of OWAD

Mark Twain rightly said "My education started the day I left school". But who of us at work has time for learning English? One answer is to integrate continuously learning English into our working day. Easy to say, hard to do! Unless the material is relevant and the method is fun. Hopefully you will find One-Word-A-Day both useful for your work and also entertaining.

How the words are chosen

In selecting the words I am trying to choose words which satisfy two conflicting needs:

  • the words should occur in educated British-American conversation - and
  • the words should be unknown to most German speakers of English

I try to use quotes from the international press and I make a cross-check against the "World Bank of English" which contains over 500,000 words and allows me to see if my choice is within the most frequent 50,000.

How do I make this selection?

My final selection criterion is my own judgement - I ask myself questions like

  • Do I know this word? have I heard or read it on several occasions?
  • Is the word either interesting or useful? Does is represent a useful concept?
  • Am I likely to use the word myself with British or Americans?
  • Am I likely to avoid the word with German speakers because it is probably unknown to them?

Occasionally, I also take words which are quite new for me because they represent a new technology or management concept which looks like becoming "mainstream".

If we take the word "serendipity" - this is a fascinating word which I grant may not be known by all native speakers of English. Yet it is a word worth learning - you will occasionally read or hear it. A good test of a word's relevance is to visit Amazon books and see if the word occurs in any book titles - you can be sure that publishers are very careful about choosing book titles which readers will understand. You'll find lots of titles containing the word "serendipity".

Regarding word choices in the past - and looking back on the all the I have words given so far - I do regret a few obscure words which I inserted "just for fun". These days though, I am being quite careful in my selection. I would ask you to please trust me that the words I offer are useful.

Can I use these new words in speaking and writing?

Yes! You can use all these words when speaking with or writing to educated Anglo-Saxons, they will probably be impressed by your English knowledge, but beware,... they may not want to admit that they don't know the word themselves!

A general warning though: Never use advanced or idiomatic vocabulary with other foreign speakers of English (e.g. with the French or Japanese).

The first intention of OWAD is to help you understand the British and Americans when they use the top-end of the language, if you actually use some of these words yourself,... that's a bonus.