How Long Does it Take to Read Every Word in the Dictionary?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsMeet affable English teacher Christian Saunders, founder of Canguro English, a YouTube channel where he teaches English as a foreign language. Saunders thought about how he could uniquely celebrate World Teacher’s Day as well as raise money to provide teachers and teaching materials for thousands of refugees in Europe who do not have access to English education. At some point the English muse inspired him: why not read every word — specifically every headword — in an English dictionary? And broadcast it to the world via a YouTube and Facebook live stream. So Saunders inspired 30 other students and teachers to read the Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd Edition published in 2010, 2,069 pages long, containing approximately 100,000 headwords. Now that’s a mountain of words to climb, brother! The reading began at 10:00 am on Thursday, October 5, 2017 and ended at 3:00 am Saturday, October 7. (Incidentally, the final word was Zyrian, which was met with great excitement — and exhaustion). In short, it took 41 hours of continuous reading to read the 100,000 words in the dictionary. Bravo!

In an interview with Oxford Dictionaries, Saunders reflected on the impact of the fundraising project: “[Everyone] involved said that they actually enjoyed reading their pages. Once you start reading it’s like a kind of meditation and I think it activates something deep in our brains. I had such crazy dreams the night we finished. I think that the lack of sleep was the hardest part. And after a while it actually physically hurt to read. The inside of my cheeks were red raw from the friction of my teeth rubbing on them, and my tongue was swollen. I expected to lose my voice, but that didn’t happen.” When asked about the least favorite part of the dictionary, Saunders responded: “The hardest part was definitely all of the entries beginning with ‘un-’. It was like reading the whole dictionary again but with ‘un-’ in front of every word. And the repetition of that sound at the beginning made it pure torture.”

So what do you learn from reading 100,000 words? Apparently, a lot. Saunders elaborates: “I think what surprised me the most is the amount of foreign words that we have adopted without any type of anglicization, especially French words. I have a chart in my office that shows that 21% of modern English comes from Old French, but it’s only when you start to read the words without any context that you realize just how plunderous English has been of other languages. But the most surprising [thing I learned] is that it is actually really fun to read the dictionary in that way! There was not a single person reading who didn’t stop once in a while to marvel at a word and take the time to read its definition and absorb it. I also learned that you sound a bit like Eminem when you read really fast.”

To learn more about Team Saunder’s efforts or to donate, visit here.

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?

How Many Books Does the Average American Read?

For further reading:

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: