The world of literature has been stunned by allegations that massive numbers of words have simply gone missing from the English language.
'In the 1960s we believe there to have been at least one million English words,' said a spokesman for the Queen's English Society. 'Dictionaries that are currently available, however, list just a few hundred. It would appear that words may have been systematically removed, year by year, and copies of earlier dictionaries destroyed.'
The UK government has strongly denied that they have been part of any conspiracy. 'As people get older, their memories are not so reliable,' said a government spokesman. 'It is completely ridiculous to suggest that any language could ever have had a million words in it. That would represent more than ten different words for every six hundred men, women and children in this country. Ask any younger person,' he continued, 'and he or she will tell you that the same ten words are more than adequate to equip everyone for life, twelve if you count "dunno" and "innit".'
'Language is vital for the process of reasoning,' countered a spokesman for one of the groups campaigning for the alleged word loss to be investigated. 'We believe that successive governments have been complicit in reducing the vocabulary of the public to prevent them thinking too hard about controversial political decisions.'
Activists allege that the systematic removal of words has been obscured by educational policies that have kept young people unaware of the previous depth and diversity of the English language. They claim that teaching of English in schools has deliberately left those under fifty years of age unable to correctly spell any of the words in their own vocabularies and so has prevented them from noticing when other words have gone missing.
They argue that English educational policy since the 1970s has not been, as previously thought, a product of breathtaking ineptitude and incompetence; instead, that it has been a deliberate and cynical plot to control the minds of the people.
Conspiracy theorists have pointed to unfamiliar words being accidentally used by politicians as evidence that more English words exist than are officially recognised. They conclude that these words must have been drawn from a secret source, not available to the general public.
'There are no secret sources of words,' confirmed the Prime Minister to the BBC. 'After all, there was no literature to speak of before the 1970s. All the fantasy about the existence of earlier writers that the conspiracy theorists talk about, such as this fictitious William Shakespeare, is just a figment of somebody's imagination that has been blown out of all proportion by repetition on the Internet.'
A difficulty encountered by such complainants, and indeed political activists pursuing any issue, has been in finding adequate language with which to state their cases. 'For example,' said the spokesman for the Queen's English Society, 'there are no specific English words for things that might be done by the state to help the poor, and there are no grammatical structures to describe "discordantia cum regimen", as they say in Latin.'
The UK government has continued to try to allay fears about the alleged disposal of words. 'If anyone should discover an old dictionary,' concluded the Prime Minister, 'then biblioclasm can be assured.'
Whilst this, of course, sounds reassuring, no one is quite sure what "biblioclasm" means.