Something to beef about? Auf Wiedersehen to Germany’s longest word
Very few German linguists were in mourning yesterday after the loss of their language’s longest (and perhaps most obscure) word.
It has 63 letters and would span more than four Scrabble boards, but is no more after a change in EU law.
The word, abbreviated to RkReÜAÜG (and reproduced at the bottom of this article to avoid page display problems!) means “beef-labelling monitoring assessment assignment law” and was conceived in 1999 in the wake of the BSE crisis. Now Brussels has relaxed testing rules and the law has been ditched, along with RkReÜAÜG.
Where does that leave a language fond of words so long they require a sip of water to get through? The longest word in Duden, the German dictionary, is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung (36 letters; “motor-vehicle liability insurance”) but Guinness World Records also records Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (39 letters; “insurance firms providing legal protection”).
Cumbersome compounds abound in other languages, most notably in Scandinavia, but are rarer in English. Where they do feature, “their currency comes down to the fact they’re freakish and remembered as being long,” says Denny Hilton, senior assistant editor at the Oxford English Dictionary.
The OED’s longest word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters) but its definition reads: “invented [by the] president of the National Puzzlers’ League in imitation of polysyllabic medical terms, alleged to mean ‘a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine sand and ash dust’ but occurring only as an instance of a very long word”.
Other oddities include floccinaucinihilipilification (“the action or habit of estimating as worthless”), as invented by Latin geeks and listed in the OED as “humorous”. See also: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (“nonsense word, originally used esp. by children, and typically expressing excited approbation”) and honorificabilitudinitatibus, as used by Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost and listed in the OED as honorificabilitudinity, meaning “honourableness”.
What, then, is the longest non-humorous, vaguely normal word in English? Over to Hilton: “An example of a long word in less self-conscious use is anthropomorphologically. It means ‘with anthropomorphic use of language’, has 23 letters and was included in the first fascicle of the OED in 1884.” Not bad, if only one and a bit Scrabble boards long.
- 1 Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
- 2 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 5 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
Kensington flat branded ‘uninhabitable’ by estate agent on sale for a bargain £600,000
Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
The 13 obscure UK laws you didn’t know you were breaking
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...
£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...