About OWAD

On this page:

The History of OWAD

How the words are chosen

How do I make this selection?

Can I use these new words in speaking and writing?

Why I am investing my time in OWAD and why it is free




The History of OWAD

OWAD started in April 2000 as a free word-learning service to our clients.

I was looking for a cost-effective way to keep in touch with our German-speaking business friends. These were mostly ex-participants of English seminars and management training programmes.

As most of our clients are busy professionals needing to communicate internationally, we saw One-Word-A-Day as being a useful on-the-job learning tool.

A mailing to PSA clients resulted 1,500 OWAD registrations! That gratifying response encouraged me to develop the concept and to offer the service to anyone who wants it.

Right now we are looking at 114244 subscribers already!

It may interest you that I got the idea for "3 choices" from the popular BBC Radio game "Call my Bluff" in which teams are given really obscure English words and have to trick each other with really outrageous definitions.

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How the words are chosen

In selecting the words I am trying to choose words which satisfy two conflicting needs:

  1. the words should occur in educated British-American conversation - and
  2. the words should be unknown to most German speakers of English

I try to use quotes from the international press and I make a cross-check against the "World Bank of English" which contains over 500,000 words and allows me to see if my choice is within the most frequent 50,000.

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How do I make this selection?

My final selection criterion is my own judgement - I ask myself questions like

  • Do I know this word? have I heard or read it on several occasions?

  • Is the word either interesting or useful? Does is represent a useful concept?

  • Am I likely to use the word myself with British or Americans?

  • Am I likely to avoid the word with German speakers because it is probably unknown to them?

Occasionally, I also take words which are quite new for me because they represent a new technology or management concept which looks like becoming "mainstream".

If we take the word "serendipity" - this is a fascinating word which I grant may not be known by all native speakers of English. Yet it is a word worth learning - you will occasionally read or hear it. A good test of a word's relevance is to visit Amazon books and see if the word occurs in any book titles - you can be sure that publishers are very careful about choosing book titles which readers will understand. You'll find lots of titles containing the word "serendipity".

Regarding word choices in the past - and looking back on the all the I have words given so far - I do regret a few obscure words which I inserted "just for fun". These days though, I am being quite careful in my selection. I would ask you to please trust me that the words I offer are useful.

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Can I use these new words in speaking and writing?

Yes! You can use all these words when speaking with or writing to educated Anglo-Saxons, they will probably be impressed by your English knowledge, but beware,... they may not want to admit that they don't know the word themselves!

A general warning though: Never use advanced or idiomatic vocabulary with other foreign speakers of English (e.g. with the French or Japanese).

The first intention of OWAD is to help you understand the British and Americans when they use the top-end of the language, if you actually use some of these words yourself,... that's a bonus.

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Why I am investing my time in OWAD
and why it is free

Three reasons:

  1. It's public relations for our training and consulting business
  2. I enjoy language, it's fun looking for useful words inventing plausible definitions
  3. It develops my German :)

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Learning English with OWAD is a service of PSA-International - Impressum
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