[LMB] OT: How Did You Learn to Read?

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Tue Oct 17 18:25:01 BST 2017

Marc writes:

You want lots of meanings?  I believe "set" followed by "let" are the words
with most dictionary entries, in English at any rate.

John: Sounds familiar, though I can't swear to it. In the printed OED2 :

SET, sb1 has 33 numbered subheads, sb2 has 15, v1 has 152, and ppl. a. 10,
the whole occupying 24+ double-column pages.

LET, sb1 has 2, sb2 has 1, v1 has 38, v2 has 2, and ppl. a. 1, but they
fill only 5+ pages.

The most polysemic phoneme is, I believe, [can't do phonetics on list, but]

Then again, lots of words are much more polysemic than one supposes. Ben
Jonson has a poem that begins "Some act of love's bound to rehearse", and
when I looked up 'bound' I decided about 23 of the listed senses were

Considering English is pretty much the largest language in terms of total
vocabulary (OED2 with 616,000 headwords is twice the size of its nearest
equivalents in Spanish, French, and German, and the online version has lots
more than the print one), our love of the polysemic is interesting. And a
trifle perverse. But lots of fun.

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member & Director of Studies in English, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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