Our daily use of language seems to be heading in the abridged direction with text messages limiting us to 160 characters and micro-blogging sites like Twitter to an even more skimped 140.
But what if you have something more to say than, “gr8 2 c u 2nite”? What if you want to pontificate with a few more letters purely because Microsoft tells us that technology gives us freedom of speech, when really it’s just out to limit our consonants?
No, this rally cry hasn’t kept me awake at night but I’ve still decided it’s about time someone said it! If you’ve been motivated in a slight uprising against Twitter or if you’re suddenly in the mood to send a 3 page SMS, you’re going to need some tools at your disposal… like the longest word in the English language.
At this point, it’s easy to get into arguments on what actually constitutes an English word in the first place, but I’m going with what has been accepted in a dictionary.
The longest word in any of the main English language dictionaries is the 45 letter mouthful: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
What’s interesting about this word apart from an inability to pronounce it or even care to read past the third letter, is that it is actually a really rather useless word.
It was created to refer to a lung disease contracted from inhaling fine silica particles from a volcano, but is seen as a hoax entry into the longest word foray because medically, it means the same as silicosis so didn’t need to be coined after all. A common mistake really…
So that some boffin didn’t lose too much face, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis has since been used to roughly describe its originally intended meaning, in an effort to give some degree of validity to its claim as the longest word in the English language.
If that hasn’t impressed you, Wikipedia also classifies a word familiar to us all as a contender for longest English word. Courtesy of the McDonald’s marketing department, you can also include the 71 letters of: Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun as a longest word candidate.
If you’re not sure what I’m on about, or if you prefer Burger King, here’s a blast from the past.
There is also the Mary Poppins song: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious which takes up 34 squares on a Scrabble board, but in the end is a proper noun so you couldn’t use it. Not to mention that you would need an abnormally oversized board that Mattel probably don’t make.
Finally, if you’re wondering what the longest place name in the world is, it’s not in North Wales, though the 58 letters in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch make a good go of it.
No, the winners of the sore jaw competition goes to those crazy kids in New Zealand who obviously have a lot of time on their hands…
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu is an 85 letter Kiwi hill. If you’re wondering, it translates roughly as: “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who traveled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.”
Now which do you think is more of a mouthful?