back to article Germans purge selves of indigestible 63-letter word

A change in EU law has allowed the Germans to bin their longest word: the 63-letter monster Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. According to the Telegraph, the monstrosity was spawned back in 1999 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and translates as "law delegating beef label monitoring", in bite- …

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Meh

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Let the Welsh put the Germans in their place,

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

1-0 to them I think.

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Anonymous Coward

The German word never officially made it into their equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary though.

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Re: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

If thats the one I think it is, it is both a place name rather than a word, and was deliberately invented as a lure for tourists.

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Happy

Re: Warning: Long words are bad for your Health

"They give you Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis"

Well that's easy for you to say.

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Headmaster

Re: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Shortened to Llanfair PG by the locals!

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Anonymous Coward

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

45 letters and in the OED.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Nice. It just rolls off the tongue.

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Re: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

translates into German as "Quarzstaublunge", literally "quartz dust lung".

Never let it be said us Germans weren't efficient... :o)

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Anonymous Coward

antidisestablishmentarianism...

...might actually get some genuine airings this week with the current focus on the voting by CofE bishops in the House of Lords.

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Re: antidisestablishmentarianism...

My thought too. Unlike most lengthy detritus in the dictionary, this word is actually useful (and has been so for centuries). If it didn't exist, political discourse would require that it be invented.

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floxinoxinihilipilification

A pathetic 27 letters, but you cannot say it is worthless.

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Headmaster

"A pathetic 27 letters, but you cannot say it is worthless"

Many of us probably can't say it, period. However, I do know for sure that you can't spell it. It's "floccinaucinihilipilification", and it's 29 letters long - one more than "antidisestablishmentarianism".

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IT Angle

There is even an IT angle

Any one who does some kind of text mashing should be aware of the corner cases. If you're writing any kind of dictionary manager/query you actually should be aware of this stuff.

Now if you know the longest word in English is <32 characters you could do a length count in 5 bits.

But if you want to be multi lingual the it's 6 bits.

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Re: There is even an IT angle

Although English isn't an agglomerative language, it's dangerous to make assumptions about maximum word length because you can almost always add an affix. Before antidisestablishmentarianism* existed, there may have been people who practiced protoantidisestablishmentarianism .

*The crappy Firefox spellchecker has put a red line under "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "agglomerative". I guess it's only happy with a language level like "See John run. John runs to the shop."

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Re: There is even an IT angle

Maybe with more CPU cycles, they could start analyzing words with prefixes and suffixes, and put a wiggly brown line under words that might be OK but aren't actually in its dictionary. (Ie, words that break down as common prefixes and suffixes and something that is a known word in the middle.)

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The crappy Firefox spellchecke

" I guess it's only happy with a language level like "See John run. John runs to the shop." "

It is until you teach it different. Just be sure of your spelling before you add it to your personal dictionary.

Techies. Tch!

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Re: There is even an IT angle

...because you can almost always add an affix

Prepsuedoantidisestablishmentarianismist?

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@Kubla Cant: Re: There is even an IT angle

"The crappy Firefox spellchecker has put a red line under 'antidisestablishmentarianism' and 'agglomerative'. I guess it's only happy with a language level like 'See John run. John runs to the shop.'"

"Basic English" - now redesignated "Firefox English"!

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They had an example of this in the German GCSE book we used, IIRC it was...

vierwaldstaterseedampfschiffgesellsschaftkapitansmutzensternlein

I can't remember how to say anything meaningful in German, but that stuck in there somehow. Any German speakers here? Did I get it right?

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That's not German, that's Swiss

So I refuse to give a translation.

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Translation

The little metal star on the hat of a captain in the Vierwald steamboat company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That's not German, that's Swiss

Herr Schultz, don't be silly. You're just being obstinate. :-D

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Re: That's not German, that's Swiss

Schultz, that is the best example of typical German humour I have ever read, you owe me a new keyboard.

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At least they're finally stopping BSE testing as it's magically disappeared ... even though it was obviously never in Europe anyway ( not even in the cattle that the French would routinely send to slaughter for food use when wierd 'mad' symptoms manifested themselves ... )

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Computernachrichtentextrechtschreibprüfungsergebnissbeurteilungsnote

I just wanted to put you on notice, that the Registernachrichtentextrechtschreibprüfungsergebnissbewertungsnotenerfassung has been performed and the Nachrichtentextrechtschreibprüfungsergebnissbewertungsnotenerfassungsspeicherort is right here on the comment pages.

5.

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Anonymous Coward

Battle/Victor/Warlord generation

Those of us from the Battle/Victor/Warlord generation will surely remember.

Achtung!Schweinhund!HandeHoch!ForYouZeVarIsOverMeinFreund.

And speaking of that generation, those Commando 64-pagers are apparently still going strong...

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The Dutch have their own way of creating massive words:

Hottentottensoldatententententoonstellingspersonenautoparkeerterrein

is one construct, but their tendency to create words with an uncomfortable number of consecutive consonants really stands out:

angstschreeuw

with 8 was long held to be the champion, but

slechtstschrijvend

might top that with 9 (jury still out on whether this word is OK. Trust the Welsh to come up with place names that (appear) to consist only of consonants:

Cwmtwrch, Bwlch and Mwnt were all places I have passed on my meanderings in Wales.

In these cases the 'w' is pronounced more or less like an "oo" as in food

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Alien

Huh, I thought you had to go much further east to get crazy long consecutive consonant chains. Georgian and Armenian seem to contain rather less conveniently pronounceable words... "ɡvbrdɣvnis" (the super-useful "he's plucking us") and khghchmtank̕ ("conscience", apparently).

I think they have Dutch beaten on the number of phonemes they can wring out of a bunch of consonants, if nothing else.

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Headmaster

Welsh vowels

'W' is a vowel in Welsh. What's more, Welsh is a transparent language (as linguists call it). This means that each letter in the language's written form is associated with a single sound (more or less) in the spoken language. The Welsh 'w' is therefore always pronounced much like the English 'oo'.

Exceptions to Welsh orthographical transparency would be:

* the letter 'Y' can have one of two sounds: 'ee' or 'uh'. There are clear rules as to which to use. (In Turkish, this difference is indicated by the lack of a dot over the 'i' for the dark ('uh') sound. The clear sound uses the familiar 'i' with a dot).

* vowels can be either long or short, so an 'i' can either be short as 'i' in 'pig' or long like the 'ee' in 'seed'. Where there is any doubt, a circumflex can be put over the vowel to indicate that it is long, such as the 'w' in 'dŵr'.

Otherwise, you pretty much pronounce Welsh words as you see them. You need to know the rules, though. The Welsh alphabet has a number of digraphs (ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh, th) that figure in the alphabet as single letters and are sorted as single letters in dictionaries and indices for example.

Other languages use letters that in English are consonants to indicate vowels or semi-vowels. An 'r' in Czech, for example, can be a vowel as in 'Brno'. The same applies to the Czech 'l' as in 'Vltava'.

English is unusual in that its orthography makes pretty much no sense at all unless you're a specialist in language history. So applying English orthographical conventions to other languages often says more about English than it does about the language being commented upon.

I notice that somebody else has already commented on the use of spaces between words, so I'll not repeat it here.

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Joke

Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch just doesnt work... You end up having to clear your throat after every second word because in English you only make those sound when your trying to bring up a very stubborn bit of flem!

Saying that , it's still easier to understand then Glaswegian...

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Happy

Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

Ik ben een Brit in Nederland en ik heb geen enkel probleem hiermee, maar ik ben er dan ook geboren.

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Happy

Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

"Saying that , it's still easier to understand then Glaswegian..."

Curiously Glaswegians who've learned Dutch and German have no trouble in either language.

Odd that....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

Pah! You just need some exercise :-)

I have no problems whatsoever.

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Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

"You end up having to clear your throat after every second word because in English you only make those sound when your trying to bring up a very stubborn bit of flem!"

In English that's "phlegm" but in Flemish, it's, uh.... ugh.

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Anonymous Coward

Being a Dutch person and having a good understanding of German as well I have to say I quite enjoy this topic!

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Trollface

Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

I sincerely hope you meant "phlegm". That sort of thing is frowned upon, even in Europe.

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Does anybody remember that quiz presented by Paul Coia, in which stupidly long words were a common part? I see a Wiki contributor has also remembered:

"In 1988 Coia became the host of the BBC gameshow Catchword, memorable for the fact that seemingly every contestant endeavoured to employ the words floccinaucinihilipilification or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis during their efforts. He has since presented a number of other quizzes on various satellite and cable channels."

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This thread is full of words that look like variable names I've seen.

I maintain some awful code.

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IT Angle

Re: This thread is full of words that look like variable names I've seen.

Awful code? Or just code written by a person whose first language is not English, whose idea of a good variable name is therefore not the same as yours?

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Re: This thread is full of words that look like variable names I've seen.

Yes, absolutely awful code.

Written by a person who's native language was English.

Who's idea of a good variable name involves some of the worst hungarianesque notation (in an ide that will frigging tell you what type and what class a method belongs to) that I've ever seen.

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Anonymous Coward

Value for money

tank <-> Schutzengrabenvernichtungpanzerkraftwagen

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Value for money

Or just Panzer?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tank

It's "Panzerkampfwagen" often shortened to 'Pzkpfw'.

"Panzer" is just armour, in general - in many cases this still works but that's not what it's actually called.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tank

In English we also refer to some vehicles in official literature as 'Armoured Fighting Vehicle' - which is the same thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 'Armoured Fighting Vehicle'

I just road tested 'Armoured Fighting Vehicle' and 'Schutzengrabenvernichtungpanzerkraftwagen' on my (German) girlfriend. Even she agrees 'Armoured Fighting Vehicle' is easier to say, but reckons 'Schutzengrabenvernichtungpanzerkraftwagen' sounds like it has a more finely engineered feel to it and is probably the less pleasant to have pointed at you in anger, but might be useful in traffic jams.

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Agglutinative languages

German (and Turkish and others) basically don't put spaces in a noun phrase, so there's no real significance to the length of a "word" and you're free to invent your own. Worth noting that spaces are actually a relatively modern development in writing. Theancientsdidn'tusespacesatall.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Agglutinative languages

"German (and Turkish and others) basically don't put spaces in a noun phrase"

Yes, but that does not make them agglutinative languages, which is a rather different thing. In an agglutinative language, if you separate the different morphemes, they do not really make sense just standing there by themselves.

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Re: Agglutinative languages

German wouldn't be an agglutinative language, though, as it's only nouns that get lumped together like that. Prepositions, articles (or other means of expressing definiteness) etc. are not included.

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Boffin

Reading glasses

Due to extremely poor eyesight I have high magnification reading glasses, which means the longest word I can see all in one go in this type size is about 10 letters. Makes long words quite inconvenient...

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