Sounding it out

Russian is one of those languages, like German, that you just have to sound out. The words are simply too long. This week I learned to say the name of my agency. It is four words long and over 22 letter! That is quite a mouthful.

I thought I would look up the longest word in the English language and share it. According to Wikipedia (always a great source of knowledge, both fake and real), the longest technical word, coined to be the largest word in the English language is:

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a factitious word alleged to mean ‘a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust, causing inflammation in the lungs.'” A condition meeting the word’s definition is normally called silicosis.

Other contenders included:

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (pseudoPHP) is an inherited disorder, named for its similarity to pseudohypoparathyroidism in presentation. The term pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is used to describe a condition where the individual has the phenotypic appearance of pseudohypoparathyroidism type 1a, but is biochemically normal.


The act or habit of describing or regarding something as worthless.
1741: William Shenstone, Letters,
I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money.
1970: Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander,
There is a systematic flocci-nauci-nihili-pilification of all other aspects of existence that angers me. gives this interesting piece about what could be or is the longest word in the Spanish language.  Because of the quantity of Spanish post-fixes and pre-fixes, this lends itself to an interesting discussion:

What is the longest word in Spanish?The answer depends on what you mean by the longest word, but regardless of your definition the longest word isn’t superextraordinarísimo, the 22-letter word once listed in the famous recordbook and the word most often cited as the longest in the language. (It means “most superextraordinary.”)

The designation of superextraordinarísimo seems arbitrary at best. For one thing, the word isn’t in real use. As of this writing, a Google search shows not a single instance where the word was used on a Spanish-language Web site — except on pages listing what they called the longest Spanish words. And superextraordinarísimo has two other strikes against it: If one is going to create words by adding prefixes and suffixes, one could just as well make a 27-letter word by using the adverbial form, superextraordinarísimamente. Or one could just as easily use longer root words, ending up with words such as superespectacularísimamente(“most superspectacularly”). But again they’re hypothetical words rather than ones that get legitimate use.

A better choice for a 22-letter word isesternocleidomastoideo, the name of a certain neck muscle. It can be found in Spanish-language medical texts.

But we can do better without coining words. The longest words in real use appear to be two 23-letter beauties: anticonstitucionalmente(“unconstitutionally”) and electroencefalografista(“electroencephalograph technician”). Since the latter is a noun, it can be made a 24-letter plural, electroencefalografistas, my designation as the longest legitimate Spanish word. And it indeed is a word in real use — not everyday use, but you can find it listed in some phone directories, for example.

By coining cognates of some especially long English words, it would be possible to come up with longer words still. For example, some medical words and names of certain chemicals English top 30 letters, and the longest English word listed in an accepted dictionary is reported to be “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis,” a type of lung disease. A translation of the word to Spanish, which is made easy by the fact that all the roots have Spanish cognates, presumably would be neumonoultramicroscopicosiliciovolcanconiosis at 45 letters, or something similar. But such words would probably be considered spurious rather than legitimate Spanish.

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