Something else happened in the 1650-1659 decade. I have a plausible hypothesis but no more. James Blount published a dictionary: * * *Glossographia; or, a dictionary interpreting the hard words of whatsoever language, now used in our refined English tongue* (1656)
and there are a fair number of OED entries that reference it, but I haven't run the stats to verify whether this is the reason for the bump.
On Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 2:34 PM, Ted Pedersen <tpederse at d.umn.edu> wrote:
> Greetings all,
> I was recently browsing through OED and discovered their timeline
> feature. This shows a histogram that represents the number of words
> added to English during 10, 50, or 100 year ranges, and I was a little
> surprised by the shape. I think you can see this graph at the URL
> below (assuming you have online access to OED).
> My verbal description won't be great, but there are local peaks around
> the years 1400, 1600, and 1900, with valleys around 1500, 1750, and
> the present day...while the overall trend is to have more and more
> words included in the language, this graph suggests there are periods
> where many words are included, and others where there are much fewer
> included, and that this tends to alternate. The valley around 1750 is
> quite dramatic as compared to the peaks of 1600 and 1850, for example.
> What's going on here? Does this tell us something about English, or
> about how OED was compiled, or ... ?
> Ted Pedersen
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