The title of this post is excerpted from “The Wisdom of the Language“, an article I wrote over 7 years ago. Recently published research has now corroborated my hypothesis.
As my friend Lawrence Wilkenson wrote the other day:
Readers will likely have heard of the recent research that has identified a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains some surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.”
Of course it feels great to have my ideas vindicated this way, but what is perhaps even more interesting is the logic behind the research: Apparently, words used more often are more stable within human language (indeed, the words I listed in my article are primarily words I recalled off the top of my head from earlier research done by Zipf — so I guess that is another link).
This might also open another way to define brand names (versus natural language): If a string is used often in the present, but was hardly ever or even never used in the past, then there is probably a high likelihood that it is a brand (and not a word).