In this Issue
Letters to the Editor
Write to Us
Spread the Word
Back Issues

Pea-green boats on a wine-dark sea: Spinning the colour wheel of English


British and American
The birthplace of sport

New word of the month
Baby talk:
New words and parenthood

MED Web Watch

Your questions answered

MED Web Watch
by Mairi MacDonald

Next in a series of short articles looking at web resources useful for teachers and learners of English. As a rough guide, each site is marked out of 25 in terms of content, design and ease-of-use.


How do you make a list of the most frequent 86,800 words in the English language look good? The answer can be found at

The red 'current word' slider gives you an instant visual representation of how frequent a particular word is. You can either drag the slider along the graph, search for a particular word or look for a word or type in a number to find a word at that particular place on the list. The data is from the British National Corpus (BNC) and lists all words that appear at least twice in the BNC.

How might students use it? It's quite fun just to play around with the chart. The list includes proper names so as a warmer you could get your students to find out who's got the most common name in the class.

There are a couple of suggestions for activities on the site too: WordCount Conspiracy is a list of words ranked closely together that make sentences such as "despotism clinching internet" or "america ensure oil opportunity". The Washington Post ran a competition for readers to write a poem incorporating any four or more successive WordCount words in order. The results can be seen on the Washington Post website.

One activity might be to compile a mixture of three, two and one star words from the Macmillan English Dictionary and ask students to rank them, first by guessing and then by using WordCount to check.

WordCount doesn't give any context for the words so we've no idea of which sense or which part of speech of a word is more frequent. Also it doesn't include compounds or phrasal verbs. That said, it's a good-looking site that's easy and fun to use and is one way to get students thinking about word frequency.

current and archived content
graphic design and navigation
speed and technical performance
features and functionality
overall score 19 out of 25