If you love words as much as I do, you may have wondered about this question. Throughout history, society has generally believed that women talk more than men.  The male brain is 9 percent larger than the female brain, which is why females were often thought to possess less mental capacity!

The very first English dictionary, A Table Alphabetical, published in 1604, stated on its title page that its approximately 2,500 words (most of them relatively obscure) were intended for the “benefit and help of ladies, gentlewomen or any other unskillful persons.” [New York Times]

The female brain, however, does possess a wider and sensory-rich brain stem. Which may account for why we communicate back and forth between left and right brain easily, and why our thoughts are so multi-layered compared to the more linear thinking of men. Men seek solution; women seek connection.

Then in 2006 Neuroscientist Louann Brizendine in her best-seller The Female Brain, claimed that “a woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000. No wonder he doesn’t say much when he comes home, right girlfriends? 

The following year an article appeared in Science that revealed an important truth. Researchers at the University of Arizona automatically recorded the spoken words of 396 college students every 12.5 minutes, which amounts to “4 percent of a person’s daily utterances.”

The surprising result?  Women speak a tad more than 16,000 words a day. Men speak a tad under 16,000 words daily. No statistically relevant difference.  According to the story shared on NPR, Psychologist Matthias Mehl said the top three talkers uttered up to 47,000 words a day, and they were all men.  How great is that?

Actually, we know many more words than we speak. There’s about one million words in the English language; 750,000 in the latest Oxford Dictionary. Winston Churchill is claimed to have understood up to 400,000 words; Shakespeare some 300,000. The average man or woman speaks about 4,000 to 5,000 words a day, though we may know up to 50,000.


Who Cares?

When you meet a well-spoken individual, what’s your first impression?  M-m-m-m.  He must have a good education; she’s interesting; he sounds important. I’m not simply referring to 50-cent words dropped in conversation to impress. Diamantiferous. Sibylline.  Apotropaically.

I am referring to people who’ve genuinely invested time and effort to use language to its fullest by expanding their vocabulary to better convey ideas, concepts, emotions, and knowledge.

Words hold to power to create a biochemical effect on the body. Positive or negative. Remember the last time someone yelled an epithet at you. How did you feel?  Blood rushed to your head. Ears flushed? Heart races?  Or the last time you were told how much you mean to another person. Calm, happy, grateful? We feel both the joy and horror of words throughout our bodies. The saying―watch what you say ‘cause you can’t take it back— is sacrosanct. The body holds onto memories.

Words matter. They can carry extraordinary power. Watch how you speak. Use words to communicate your intent clearly and authentically.  And ladies, the next time a gentleman complains that you talk too much, grin knowingly. Without uttering a word.