I've been watching the count of questions on EL&U for the past few days. Currently, it's at 99,972.

It seems to me that 100,000 is a bit of a milestone. Should there be some kind of recognition of this once we hit that mark?

In case we wanted to do something special to commemorate the 100,000th question, how would we determine which question that actually was?

Do deleted question lower the count? I'm assuming that using the ID would be ineffective.

Congratulations to Mitch!

I realized I'd missed the ticker hitting the magic mark, so I counted backwards to find what it might have been. And found his answer (or question).

  • 2
    Well, the 100.000th question will be the one that after being posted the numerator will show 100.000. I remember we waited for the 50.000th one, which luckily was a good question.
    – user 66974
    Aug 14, 2018 at 10:45
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    A vs an? Zombie rules? Why is the New Yorker style guide so uptight? We should brainstorm!
    – Mitch
    Aug 14, 2018 at 11:39
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    We've already had well over 100,000 questions asked, because many have been deleted so there are only 99,972 on the site at the moment. (And I'm not sure that having 100,000 extant questions is a milestone we should be celebrating...)
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 14, 2018 at 12:22
  • Just a technical curiosity, how do you know a question is a particular numbered-th one? The number-id on its link is across all SE sites. By looking at the 'questions page' at just the right time you can tell, but you can't tell 5 minutes afterwards from that.
    – Mitch
    Aug 14, 2018 at 15:53
  • @Mitch That's exactly (part of) my question. The system itself must know when a question appears that moves the counter to 100,000. It's that particular question I'm interested in. But I can think of no way of identifying it after the fact. It's even possible that once the counter hits that mark, a question could get deleted, bringing the counter back down again. Programmatically, it would need to be done as part of the code that changes the counter . . . As it is, we'll probably have people saying, "Oh! I know which question it was!" ;) Aug 14, 2018 at 15:57
  • @JasonBassford Congratulations accepted... Party! Woo hoo!... Oh. The party is already over? Maybe we could have organized it better. People just didn't seem to 'get it'. Schade. Quel fromage. Send condolences and 'charitable contributions' to my super-PAC.
    – Mitch
    Aug 16, 2018 at 13:53
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    @Mitch I had given a tongue-in-cheek answer, meant to simply be humorous rather than serious—and hoped that others would follow suit. Instead, it presented me with the possibility of getting the Peer Pressure badge, which I think community wiki posts still qualify for. ;) Aug 16, 2018 at 14:00
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    @JasonBassfordI can reverse my upvote if that will make you feel better.
    – Mitch
    Aug 16, 2018 at 14:45
  • @Mitch That's a kind offer, but three peers is enough. Four (or more) might look like favouritism. Aug 16, 2018 at 15:00
  • What about automatically moving the 99,000 that should be on ELL to ELL?
    – Fattie
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:00

3 Answers 3


I propose a 100,000th question

What will English sound like in 500 years?

and mostly anything goes in answers: syntax, phonology, vocab, new and old dialects, speculation about world politics that affects language use. Yes, it is POB but we should expect some connection with reality and historical language patterns.

Obviously CW.

Here's what the question might look like:

What will English look like in 500 years?

English started off on a small island off the northwest coast of Europe in the Early Middle Ages with some German tribes swimming across the channel and killing a bunch of poor Celts. Then some Vikings killed some of them, and then some French (who had recently also been killed by Vikings) killed some of those guys. So a lot of killing happened, but as of the early third millenium it feels like things have settled down for a few hundred years.

The killing may be constant but other things never stop changing. Nominally, early modern English is dated to late 16th century, for example Shakespeare. The vocabulary and turns of phrase are only slightly different, we're used to the fancy biblical syntax and might be able to read that with study and thought, but I think it would take some time to be able to understand that speech out loud.

New patterns are adopted, old ones are slowly forgotten. Ask not what people can say in speeches, ask what your speech will say to people. Kids say things strangely these days, but then they think old people talk funny.

What do you think English will be like at the end of the next 500 years?

Consider anything: the classic linguistic areas like phonology, morphology, syntax, vocabulary, dialectology, etc, but also sociolinguistic things like how world politics or science or the internet might change things, or really anything at all.

Please attempt to be scientific. Yes, this is entirely speculative, but there are principles of language change that are clear from study of the past trends that can then be extrapolated going forward. As to future history, try to be both plausible and original (it's probably easier to do both).

OK maybe I need to edit out all the killing.

Postscript: Here it is, or rather was:

Question 100,000: What will English look like in 500 years? [on hold]

OK, that was a failed experiment. I gave some objective examples, and it got one answer that basically said there will be no English. Then closed as POB. The people who closed must not have recognized the intent of the question. I blame myself (which is code for I blame myself only the slightest and even then what others might call mistakes were legitimate alternatives).

But all this was worse than Quora, and that really stings.

Of course I wrote an answer myself, but I waited too long to post because that would have made it too obvious I did this all for myself. So these are the kind of speculations I was expecting from others:

What will English be like in 500 years?

First, sociopolitically, because that will have more effects on the actual changes rest than anything, I expect in 500 years for the UN countries to be mostly stable. There won't be a singularity, technology won't encourage changes in the language in any significant way (slang will come and go as usual), except to flatten any differences. There won't be any significant movements of populations which would create mixed societies. Basically I'm saying sci-fi has got it all wrong, they either ignore that changes will occur, or the make up weirdo patois with unlikely features.

As an aside, China will, and this is very speculative, in one hundred years (early 2100's), adopt pinyin (a roman alphabet) as official alongside traditional ideographs. This will hasten the demise of traditional Chinese writing and within 50 years no one will bother learning or writing it. These will increase the adoption of English words and quasi-English neologisms. Because of English's intellectual parochialism (and also because the Chinglish neologisms are just plain awful), these won't be adopted into mainstream English. This is all to say that there will be little adoption of Asian languages into English despite what Blade Runner or Firefly think.

Now more specifically to English, there will be fewer dialect differences and any current trends will slow down (OK that'll be the case for Spanish and Chinese too), but in 500 years some will accumulate. There will still be AmE and BrE and ScotsE and AusE, but differences within those areas will fade away entirely in 500 years. No more Scouse or Geordie or 'Estuarian', no more Texas drawl, AAVE, Spanglish.

As to space colonies (Mars, asteroids, Ganymede, etc), for possible creation of dialects by isolation,, the development and population growth there will be very slow, at most 5K off-worlders by 2250, 100K by 2500 (it just won't be that lucrative) and VR communication, even with a half-hour delay, will be so good that there really won't be any isolation. English and Chinese will be the primary languages there and there will be very little pronunciation difference from Earth. There will be some short lived slang different from Earth, but very little permanent.

So that was the sociolinguistic set-up.

Here are some specific changes that I expect will occur. I am limiting myself to American English, because I am more of the trends there, and am not sure if they apply to BrE.

  • Pronunciation:

    • cot-caught merger everywhere - it really serves no purpose and most people have it anyway.
    • lenition of intermediate t entirely: eg, water-> /war/, bottle -> /bal/, button -> /bun/
    • everyone will adopt the Northern cities vowel shift. If we time-traveled we'd still be able to understand what they're saying but we'd all be really annoyed at them.
  • Syntax:

    • "Y'all" will become the accepted formal 2nd person plural (I don't really think this will happen, I'm just putting it here because it should happen)
    • and that's it!!!
  • Vocab:

    • Because everyone will have early onset Alzheimer's because of the aluminum bomb testing in the pacific, English will become more periphrastic. Eg It will be more common to say 'I did go' instead of 'I went' and latinisms will fall out of favor to phrasal verbs. For example,

    "The sun will emit a plethora of gamma radiation."


    "The bright sky ball is gonna send out a shitton of scary stuff"

    • To distinguish thirteen/thirty through nineteen/ninety, the 'teen's will shift stress to eg thir-TEEN.

    • Randall Munroe's "Thing Explainer", a dictionary using only drawings and a vocabulary of the 1,000 (or "ten hundred") most common words, will become a government enforced vocabulary standard for everything. Keeps things simple for everybody. THere's no word for it, it don't exist.

I really expected that there'd be a lot more trends but that's all I got

  • Brilliant! Keep the killing, it was real, and even keep the swimming although few people knew how to swim before swimming pools.
    – ab2
    Aug 14, 2018 at 12:59
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  • @user070221 Nice. thekingdomsofevil is the closest to what I had in mind. I'm actually hoping for very specific predictions. The answers on Quora... are on the other end of that scale.
    – Mitch
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:30
  • You risk, we risk of being off-topic even on a Meta. What other SE site might accept this question?
    – user 66974
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:32
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    @user070221 Such a question is certainly closable for many reasons, but as a celebratory 100K question, the point is to be something bigger than usual and so liberties are expected. At least that's what I see. Voting here on meta will give some guidance.
    – Mitch
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:34
  • Oh, I hadn't seen this post. Just saw the question and whizzed over to the new page.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 14, 2018 at 19:23
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    I want to know more about the recently killed French who went on to kill the poor Celts. "Medieval French Zombie Killers in the British Isles" sounds like a must-see Netflix TV series. With Vikings!
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 14, 2018 at 20:40
  • @Sven It's complicated.
    – Mitch
    Aug 14, 2018 at 20:46
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    This is not a question to which scientific answers are possible. It can only attract opinions. So why should questions and answers be allowed to flout the rules just because of some meaningless numerology?
    – user184130
    Aug 16, 2018 at 13:54
  • @JamesRandom This kind of question thrives on the Worldbuilding.SE, with lots of science attached. Yes, there are often multiple answers, but usually multiple good answers—well-reasoned and supported by evidence. I know we aren't them, but I think since it's about English and not inherently anathema to the SE model it could work here, especially as a one-off.
    – 1006a
    Aug 16, 2018 at 15:33
  • Mitch, was it deleted? I can't find it (and missed it originally, apparently).
    – 1006a
    Aug 16, 2018 at 15:35
  • @1006a It was closed which means it fell fast in the queue. I added the link above (maybe that was the mistake, leaving that out here? I blame myself not blame). But it's Question 100,000: What will English look like in 500 years?
    – Mitch
    Aug 16, 2018 at 15:45
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    Regardless of whether the question that happened to be EL&U's number 100,000 was specially formulated to mark the milestone, I would have bet an unmatched pair of socks that it would be closed within 24 hours.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 16, 2018 at 18:23
  • @SvenYargs Well, I'll DM you my shipping address because you owe me those socks (I have a set ready to match up). From the time it was posted till the last close vote it was more than 24 hours: created - 8-14 19-12, closed - 8-15 21:28.
    – Mitch
    Aug 16, 2018 at 19:52
  • I "would have bet," and I would have lost. But instead, the socks are still mine (if I can find them)—yay! And no, I won't go double or nothing on the replay. On a more serious note, let me just say that I'm genuinely surprised and impressed by the close voters' restraint in this instance.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 16, 2018 at 20:36

Anticipating this, I was looking into the history of the phrase "round number". It's a fairly old usage, predating the useful range of Google Books and Ngrams. I wasn't able to figure out whether rounding up and rounding down preceded, or came after round number. Also couldn't decide whether the term was in common use before mathematicians started writing down formal definitions such as "made up of a lot a small numbers as factors compared to it's neighboring numbers" which isn't what most of us think of as a round number.

@99,994 as I wrote this, so not much time to decide.

  • And maybe something about superstitions concerning the "significance" of round numbers?
    – user184130
    Aug 15, 2018 at 23:52

How about a question on the "long scale" vs "short scale" for large numbers in English?

For example "billion" vs "thousand million"?

This would be the hundred thousandth post in both scales, but it's thematically appropriate.

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