English speakers are obsessed with time, study shows.

Despite the Norman Conquest of 1066 introducing thousands of French words to the English language, a large proportion of our most common nouns are from Old English or Anglo-Saxon, the mother language, dating from before the Norman Conquest. Along with our other most common words that aren't nouns, such as "the" and "of", it shows that the most common words in the English language are still very much from the original Anglo-Saxon mother tongue of English.

Most common nouns in English? I wouldn't give them the time of day

Thursday June 22, 2006

LONDON (AFP) - 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.

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 percent 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.

"We always put the focus on new words, changing language and words from other countries, but in reality the basic language we use has been the same for hundreds and hundreds of years."

OUP researchers used the Internet as a guide to everyday English usage, examining online newspapers, weblogs, bulletin boards and fiction.

While the 100 most common words were the usual suspects -- "the", "be", "to" and "of" -- researchers found that looking at the most common nouns provided a more interesting snapshot of the English language.

The 10 most common nouns in English:

1. Time
2. Person
3. Year
4. Way
5. Day
6. Thing
7. Man
8. World
9. Life
10. Hand

I certainly hope no one on the public dime spent time compiling this. Did I say 'time'?

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