Zipf’s Law strikes

The distribution of words in language is Zipfian, meaning that if you order words by frequency and then plot the frequency against the rank, you get a logarithmic curve.  What that means: any language is full of a small number of words that occur very frequently, and an enormous number of words that rarely occur.  However, they do occur.  What this means for the foreign language learner is that every stinking day, you will run across words that you haven’t seen before.  Here are a few random words from today–also see today’s post on the vocabulary of cell phone rental.

  • la teinturerie: Despite the fact that the verb teinter means to dye, this is a dry cleaner.
  • Tomme de Savoie: A mild cheese from Savoie.  If I understand the web page correctly, it’s the only controlled-origin cheese that’s available at different levels of fat.
  • la livraison: Delivery, e.g. of groceries–I came across this word at the grocery store.
  • effacer: To erase, wipe off.  With respect to computers: delete.  On my new cheap French cell phone, it’s basically the delete and/or back button.
  • insérer: To insert.  Haven’t quite figured out what it means on my cell phone.
  • le retour: Return.  Seems to mean back on my cell phone.
  • le compteur: Counter, meter.  There’s a compteur de messages on my cell phone.
  • supprimer: To remove, delete.  There’s a menu item to supprimer messages on my cell phone.
  • ainsi: In this way, e.g. Je vous explique que l’accident s’est passé ainsi ‘I’m telling you, the accident happened like that”; can introduce a conclusion, e.g. ainsi donc, tu partiras demain? “So, you’re leaving tomorrow?”; ainsi que: “as well as.”
  • le stage: Regarding work, an internship; in other senses, a training course.  The judo club that I’m going to visit this evening has various stages d’été–“summer courses.”

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