Badly reported news story of the day.

According to the BBC, you only need to learn 100 words of english to understand a large fraction of what is being said! Wow! Isn't that amazing? Doesn't that just blow your mind? By learning just 100 key words "youngsters could understand books written for both children and adults" (which presumably means Harry Potter).

If we stop there (the report does go on to qualify this in more detail that is largely unrelated to this "100 words" claim, we might believe that we need just 100 words to understand things. Well, let's give it a try. Here's the BBC's list of the top 100 words:

a, about, after, all, am, an, and, are, as, at, away
back, be, because, big, but, by
call, came, can, come, could
did, do, down
for, from
get, go, got
had, has, have, he, her, here, him, his
I, in, into, is, it
last, like, little, live, look made, make, me, my
new, next, not, now
of, off, old, on, once, one, other, our, out, over
saw, said, see, she, so, some
take, that, the, their, them, then, there, they, this, three, time, to, today, too, two
up, us
was, we, were, went, what, when, will, with

And here is the opening paragraphs of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", where I've taken every word not on this list, and replaced it with the word "marklar". I've also been overly generous, in assuming that the reader can recognise that Alice is a person, and that they know the other forms of words on this list. So, do you understand this:

ALICE was marklar to get very marklar of marklar by her marklar on the marklar and of having marklar to do: once or marklar she had marklar into the marklar her marklar was marklar, but it had no marklar or marklar in it, "and what is the marklar of a marklar," marklar Alice, "marklar marklar or marklar?'

So she was marklar, in her own marklar (as marklar as she marklar, for the marklar marklar made her marklar very marklar and marklar), marklar the marklar of making a marklar would be marklar the marklar of getting up and marklar the marklar, when marklar a marklar marklar with marklar marklar marklar marklar by her.

There was marklar so very marklar in that; marklar did Alice marklar it so very marklar out of the marklar to marklar the marklar marklar to marklar "marklar marklar! marklar marklar! I marklar be too marklar!" (when she marklar it over marklar it marklar to her that she marklar to have marklar at this, but at the time it all marklar marklar marklar); but, when the marklar marklar marklar a marklar out of its marklar-marklar, and looked at it, and then marklar on, Alice marklar to her marklar, for it marklar marklar her marklar that she had marklar marklar seen a marklar with marklar a marklar-marklar, or a marklar to take out of it, and marklar with marklar, she marklar marklar the marklar after it, and was marklar in time to see it marklar down a marklar marklar-marklar marklar the marklar.

In marklar marklar down went Alice after it, marklar once marklar marklar in the marklar she was to get out marklar.

There's a basic problem with the BBC report: being able to understand half the words in a text does not mean that you have any reasonable approximation of understanding the text overall. Marklar. F'nord. Malkovitch.

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