Cheer up: The world has plenty of long words beyond rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

Monday brought unexpected news (news, as you’ll notice above, that’s difficult to squeeze into a standard headline): In scrapping a requirement to test healthy cattle for mad cow disease, the European Union also set in motion the demise of Germany’s longest word. The story goes something like this: In 1999, a regional government in Germany ...

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Monday brought unexpected news (news, as you'll notice above, that's difficult to squeeze into a standard headline): In scrapping a requirement to test healthy cattle for mad cow disease, the European Union also set in motion the demise of Germany's longest word.

The story goes something like this: In 1999, a regional government in Germany implemented "the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labelling of beef" as a measure to protect against mad cow disease. In German, the legislation was known as rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, or RkReÜAÜG for short. But local officials have since decided that the 63-letter word is no longer needed now that the EU has tweaked its regulations concerning cattle testing. And just like that, Germany's longest word vanished. Fortunately, GlobalPost has preserved its pronunciation for posterity's sake:

 

Monday brought unexpected news (news, as you’ll notice above, that’s difficult to squeeze into a standard headline): In scrapping a requirement to test healthy cattle for mad cow disease, the European Union also set in motion the demise of Germany’s longest word.

The story goes something like this: In 1999, a regional government in Germany implemented "the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labelling of beef" as a measure to protect against mad cow disease. In German, the legislation was known as rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, or RkReÜAÜG for short. But local officials have since decided that the 63-letter word is no longer needed now that the EU has tweaked its regulations concerning cattle testing. And just like that, Germany’s longest word vanished. Fortunately, GlobalPost has preserved its pronunciation for posterity’s sake:

 

 

But despair not! The world is still full of extremely long words. What language has the longest? It’s difficult to crown a clear champion because what qualifies is open to debate. Do people have to actually use the word? Do technical and scientific terms count? For example, according to the most liberal interpretation, the longest word in English, consisting of all the chemicals that make up the protein Titin, has 189,819 letters and takes 213 minutes to say. Here are some lengthy words from around the planet that can still fit on the page.

English

The longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters), "a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine sand and ash dust." But its claim to the title is dubious because, as the dictionary notes, it was invented by the president of the National Puzzlers’ League in 1935 for the express purpose of being a long word.

The longest not-made-up word is antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters) — "opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England." Given that the movement died awhile back, it is now just known as a long word.

Finnish

Kolmivaihekilowattituntimittari (31 letters) is an electricity meter.

Dutch

Vervoerdersaansprakelijkheidsverzekering (40 letters) is "carrier’s liability insurance." It is advertised in its full, glorious form on this Dutch website.

French

Anticonstitutionnellement (25 letters) means, as you can probably tell, "unconstitutionally." 

Norwegian

Minoritetsladningsbærerdiffusjonskoeffisientmålingsapparatur (60 letters) is a device used to measure the distance between particles in a crystalline substance. 

Maori

This indigenous New Zealand language names a hill on the North Island Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu (57 letters). If you want to visit, here are the coordinates. It might take a while to ask for directions.

Greek

A journey back to the beginnings of Western civilization uncovers the word lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon (184 letters), a dish made up by the playwright Aristophanes in his 391 B.C. play, Assemblywomen. One translation describes the dish as "oysters-saltfish-skate-sharks’-heads-left-over-vinegar-dressing-laserpitium-leek-with-honey-sauce-thrush-blackbird-pigeon-dove-roast-cock’s-brains-wagtail-cushat-hare-stewed-in-new-wine-gristle-of-veal-pullet’s-wings." Yum.

German’s now-deceased longest word does pretty well in comparison. And there’s a reason. German has agglutinative qualities, meaning parts of words with different meanings are joined together to make longer words that string the meanings together. In theory, you could keep adding to a word forever. At least, that is, until the government gets involved.

<p> Peter Sullivan is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy. </p>

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