The number of words in the English language is difficult to pin down, given the number of medical and technical terms, as well as word derivatives (run, ran, running, etc.). That said, scholars tend to put the total count between 500,000 and 1.5 million.
Combine such a vast vocabulary with such diverse speakers coining new words everyday, and you have expressive power.
For instance, one doesn’t have to drink beer. One can chug it, pound it, imbibe it, swill it, or, should one find oneself in the company of ruddy faced Bavarians, quaff it. But these can all be found easily in a thesaurus. If one truly masters language, one can balk at such infantile insults as ‘asshole,’ and upgrade to the wonderfully graphic “gall-faced twat.”
To truly savor the expressive power of the English language, however, one must consider the word "intoxicated." Off the top of my head, I can think of 20 synonyms:
- fucked up
- bent off one's face
Last night at Paul's going away party in Trout Run, Pennsylvania, I do believe I achieved all 20 states of intoxication.
Sigh... You can take the kid out of college...