Diary: A 29-letter word outburst is nothing to Rees-Mogg


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The Independent Online

Floccinaucinihilipilification is sometimes said to be the longest word in the English language. At 29 letters, it beats antidisestablishmentarianism, though there are some longer concoctions in medical dictionaries, and the third paragraph of Finnegan's Wake, by James Joyce, has a made-up word of 100 letters.

Be that as it may, floccinaucinihilipilification is by a wide margin the longest in the printed version of Hansard that went on sale yesterday. There is only one MP eccentric and learned enough to use it, namely Jacob Rees-Mogg, the idiosyncratic old Etonian who represents North East Somerset, and looks and speaks as if he has stepped from the pages of a PG Wodehouse novel.

Pupils of the old school where Rees-Mogg, David Cameron and Boris Johnson received their education are credited with coining the word floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning the act of defining something as unimportant, from the Latin floccus – a wisp, naucum – a trifle, nihil – nothing, and pilus – a single hair, or trifle.

Intervening in a Commons debate on the British Government's dispute with a European Court over a pay award for EU staff, Mr Rees-Mogg accused the judges of breaching the age old principle of nemo iudex in causa sua – Latin for "no one should be the judge in their own cause".

He added: "Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges and quote from the book of Amos about them: 'For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right'."

This man makes Dave Cameron sound like an oik.

Eminem April Fool drove Ann mad

Ann Widdecombe is asked in the current issue of Time Out what was the strangest thing she had ever read about herself. It was, she said, a report in The Independent that she was an Eminem fan. Numerous people came up to her expressing surprise. "When I read it, I thought 'What is all this rubbish?'," she said. "I got absolutely mad, and then suddenly realised the date." It was 1 April.

Spellar made to wait for his medal

In the days when there were more trade unions than there are now, the right wing of the TUC was occupied by the electricians union, the EEPTU. Its national officer John Spellar became famous as the wheeler dealer who organised the union block vote to ensure that annual party conferences voted the way leaders like Jim Callaghan wanted them to.

But the EEPTU has long gone, absorbed in a sequence of union mergers into the massive Unite, headed by that hardy left winger and former Liverpool docker, Len McCluskey. Old differences were put aside when Mr McCluskey went to the Commons to speak to a room full of Labour MPs. He began by ceremonially presenting Spellar with a medal for 40 years' service, after which Spellar delivered a homily on the importance of the union link with the Labour Party, his subtext being "don't wreck the link by attacking Ed Miliband from the left".

Oddly, Spellar's biography reveals that he began work at the EEPTU in 1969. So why has it taken until 2012 for him to be presented with his 40-year medal? Answer: because McCluskey's predecessor, Derek Simpson, could not make the presentation because he could not stand Spellar.

GMB is top donor – but for how long?

Unite is Britain's biggest union, but was not the biggest donor to the Labour Party during the last quarter of 2011. Figures released by the Electoral Commission show that the GMB, the third biggest union, topped the list, having given £649,092 in those three months. That same union will be debating a motion at its June conference to stop giving money to the Labour Party altogether.

Goodwin spared more humiliation

Fred Goodwin, whom we no longer call Sir Fred, has been spared one humiliation. It was suggested that he be expelled from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his disservices to banking, but the 13-strong council has decided that he can stay. No reason has been given.

The origin of Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, who is due to debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in Oxford tonight on the origin and nature of human beings, has hit back at a "surreal smear" in the Sunday Telegraph that he is descended from slave traders. It is hardly fair to attack him for what his "five-greats grandfather" did, he has told the Oxford Mail.

Besides, as everyone knows, Professor Dawkins is descended from primordial slime that formed in the oceans more than 3 billion years ago – whereas Dr Williams is a direct descendant of Adam.