The Top Ten Commonly Used English Words

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Lists
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s the deal.  Wherever I go, people come up to me and ask, “Makya, of Makya McBee Vs., what are your favorite commonly used English words?”  Okay…you caught me…that’s not actually true…I don’t go anywhere.

But I do have a list of my favorite common English words.  Being semi-permanently, temporarily unemployed gives a man plenty of time to come up with an opinion on everything. 

Lagoon in Santo

Putting the blue in lagoon

I started with a list of the 100 most commonly used English words, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Click here if you’d like to take a quiz trying to identify as many of these words as you can in twelve minutes (I managed 74 out of 100 – that may seem low, but the task is more difficult than it sounds…go ahead and try and tell me how many you get, smarty pants).  The next step was…well, deciding which ones were the best.  And that pretty much brings us up to date.

Remember, you won’t find any colorful words like lagoon, serendipity or quintessential here.  Those words are fine for special occasions, but today we’re talking about the words that do the heavy lifting.  The words that aren’t afraid of an honest day’s work.  They may not be as fancy, but these are the words that make up the majority of what we read, write and say and they deserve our respect.

So, for all of you out there with your own, erroneous lists, I proudly present Makya McBee Vs. Other People’s Lists – Volume 4, The Ten Best Commonly Used English Words…brought to you by the OED (You down with OED?  Yeah, you know me…)

The Top Ten Commonly Used English Words

(11) Now     (The 73rd most common word serves the important purpose of reminding us to live in the moment.  It’s a tricky thing, not living in the past or future – not as tricky as, say, living in a duffel bag or a friend’s oversized pocket, but still.  This one might have been ranked higher if it were not also used by spoiled people to mean “immediately” as in, “I want to see my friend!  Bring me my duffel bag now!”)

(10) Make     (To bring into existence.  That’s a pretty important part of being human.  Whether it’s an excuse, a house, or a human being, we love making things)

(9) But     (This, the 22nd most common, is a word of reason…a word of contrary opinions and possibilities…a word key to any rational discourse…and it sounds just like “butt”)

(8) Like     (This is a great word for two reasons – as a verb, it allows us to demonstrate when we find something to be agreeable, as a preposition it’s perfect for drawing correlations and seeing the things in the world that connect us.  And, bonus, you can use it as an interjection, “I have a friend who, like, totally lives in a duffel bag.”

(7) Be     (“To be or not to be” gets a lot of credit as a philosophical question.  Personally, I think the answer is pretty obvious.  But without this word we don’t really have anything)

(6) Or     (The 35th most common word, it’s key because it gives us options.  Without or we’d have no choices in life.  No reason to get up in the morning.  Or…would we?)

(5) With     (Very important concept.  Without with we’d be alone.  This word joins us.  It’s really romantic when you think about it.  Without it, we’d only have a lonely chicken.  But employing this word we can have a chicken with its head cut off…okay, that’s probably not the best example)

(4) No     (Some people don’t like this word.  They should give it some more thought.  No is one of the first words that babies learn.  Why are they so eager to shout this word at ever possible opportunity?  It’s their first chance to be independent.  And as much as we need with, we also desperately need to establish ourselves by ourselves.  Also, without no there isn’t yes.  It’s hard to remember sometimes, but if we didn’t get as many no’s as we do in life, the eventual yes would lose all its meaning)

(3) I     (As I just established, we need to be recognized as unique beings.  There’s probably a reason this is the 10th most common word and you is the 18th.  Sure, people love pointing out that there’s no i in team, but there are three of them in individual)

(2) If     (It could be argued that there is no more important word for a writer.  This is a great and powerful word because it is a word of infinite possibilities. If can be anything.  If  I won the lottery.  If  I lost my job.  If my friend jumped out of my duffel bag and started running around like a chicken with its head cut off) 

(1) For     (This may be the 12th most common word, but it’s my #1.  And I can see that it might, at first, seem like an odd choice.  But for is a word of purpose.  People fight for a cause.  Risk everything for a dream.  Do anything for their family.  Humans are a resilient bunch.  We can survive without a lot of things.  But it’s pretty hard to live without a for)

  1. Lokyra Stone says:

    When I was teaching a fifth grade class sign language, one of their favourite mini-lessons was “yes” and “no”. Of course, that might have something to do with the goofy way I was doing it, but still.

    Do you often encounter friends shoved into duffel bags?
    Have you ever actually watched a chicken run around with its head cut off?
    I think if, why, and with are my favourite commonly used words.
    I love when you get all philosophical like this.

  2. Becky says:

    I am so embarrassed that I only got 50…..

  3. angelina says:

    I think ummm should be at least one of them. I hear that associated that alot with the word like. Example ummmm like totally.

  4. reddkool says:

    I’m not going to be a jerk and point out that individual has three i’s vecause it is quite possibly something you purposefully put in there to see who would catch it… Or you just made an honest (as opposed to dishonest?) mistake… Either way, no worries, I won’t even mention it.

    • reddkool says:

      And then I spell because wrong. Good thing none of us are being jerks, right?

      • Makya McBee says:

        Lokyra – Yes, I would include “why” in my top ten as well, but it wasn’t available to me. I had to set a boundary, or it would have become just my favorite words. Unfortunately, “why” is not in the top 100. Thanks for the compliment, if I can “get all philosophical” while still making butt jokes I feel like it’s a job well done.

        Becky – Fifty out of one hundred is not half bad…actually, I suppose it is literally half bad. But an A for effort.

        Angelina – “Um” is no doubt in the top twenty of spoken words. You rarely find it, however, in writing. The, um, exception being your comment and my reply.

        Red – I’m not being a verk…I mean, um, jerk.

    • Makya McBee says:

      It was a mistake (and one that I just corrected…for anyone reading this and referring back to the post – I originally wrote that “individual” has two i’s). It was the type of mistake that, when someone points it out, you wonder how you could have possibly missed it. Thanks for noticing, from now on I will be doubly dilligent when crossing my t’s and counting my i’s.

  5. zumpoems says:

    Great post! Excellently written and very creative to pick such a topic — and very creatively executed!

  6. Lokyra Stone says:

    How could why not be in the top 100?? I demand a recount!
    I think getting all philosophical while making butt jokes means you have ascended to the level of the Adept.

  7. Outlier Babe says:

    This is actually quietly courageous writing, to baldly express sentiment like this and risk ridicule. And it was done very competently (and engagingly), so that none of it seems corny or cloying. Was particularly impressed at your choice of, and explanation for, the last word on your list. Speaks to your own character (as does the entire list–oh, and please pass on their share of these compliments to your parents : )

    As a parent myself (tho’ kids grown), one criticism: The word “no” is not typically “one of the first words” well-parented babies learn, and when toddlers do learn start saying it, they do not typically start throwing it back to adults “at every opportunity”, or frequently use it in temper, or even have “Terrible Twos”. But–it does happen eventually, and your point about establishing growing independence was correct, so this is just nit-picking.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Thanks for the lovely compliments…but I fail to see why my parents should get any credit. Sure, they did a good job raising me…but they didn’t teach me how to pick the top ten commonly used words.

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