Hodgepodge of Hippopotomonstrosesquipidelian Homeruns

hippoIf you are a lover of obnoxiously-long words, you already know the definition of hippopotomonstrosesquipidelian is “of or pertaining to extremely long words.” Perhaps you already know these English language monstrosities that probably won’t show up in a crossword puzzle any time soon:

  • honorificabilitudinitatibus (27 letters): The longest word used by William Shakespeare, as well as the longest word in English with alternating consonants and vowels, it refers to the state of being able to achieve honors.
  • floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters): The categorizing of something as being worthless or trivial. This is also the longest word in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomies (37 letters): a surgical process to create a channel between the gall bladder and the hepatic duct or intestines.
  • pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters): The longest word in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the name given to a lung disease miners get from inhaling silicia.
  • asseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary (51 letters): describes the structure of the entire human body
  • aequeosalinocalcalinosetaceoaluminosocupreovitriolic (52 letters): used to describe the spa waters at Bath, England.
  • bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawn-toohoohoordenenthurnuk (101 letters): Used in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake to represent the symbolic thunderclap following Adam and Eve’s fall.
  • methionylglutaminylarginyltyrosylglutamylserylleucylphenylalanyla-lanylglutaminylleucyllysylglutamylarginyllysylglutamylglycylalany-lphenylalanylvalylprolylphenylalanylvalylthreonylleucylglycylaspa-rtylprolylglycylisoleucylglutamylglutaminylserylleucyllysylisoleu-cylaspartylthreonylleucylisoleucylglutamylalanylglycylalanylaspar-tylalanylleucylglutamylleucylglycylisoleucylprolylphenylalanylser-laspartylprolylleucylalanylaspartylglycylprolylthreonyliso leucylglutaminylaspfraginylalanylthreonylleucylarginylalanylpheny-lalanylalanylalanylglycylvalylthreonylprolylalanylglutaminylcyste-inylphenylalanylglutamylmethionylleucylalanylleucylisoleucylargin-ylglutaminyllysylhistidylprolylthreonylisoleucylprolylisoleucylgl-ycylleucylleucylmethionyltyrosylalanylasparaginylleucylvalylpheny-lalanylasparaginyllysylglycylisoleucylaspartylglutamylphenylalany-ltyrosylalanylglutaminylcysteinylglutamyllysylvalylglycylva-lylaspartylserylvalylleucylvalylalanylaspartylvalylprolylvalylglu taminylglutamylserylalanylprolylphenylalanylarginylglutaminylalan-ylalanylleucylarginylhistidylasparaginylvalylalanylprolylisoleucy-lphenylalanylisoleucylcysteinylprolylprolylaspartylalanylaspartyl-aspartylaspartylleucylleucylarginylglutaminylisoleucylalanylseryl-tyrosylglycylarginylglycyltyrosylthreonyltyrosylleucylleucylseryl-arginylalanylglycylvalylthreonylglycylalanylglutamylasparag-inylarginylalanylalanylleucylprolylleucylasparaginylhistidylleucy-lvalylalanyllysylleucyllysylglutamyltyrosylasparaginylalanylalany- lprolylprolylleucylglutaminylglycylphenylalanylglycylisoleucylser-ylalanylprolylaspartylglutaminylvalyllysylalanylalanylisoleucylas-partylalanylglycylalanylalanylglycylalanylisoleucylserylglycylser-ylalanylisoleucylvalyllysylisoleucylisoleucylglutamylglutaminylhi-stidylasparaginylisoleucylglutamylprolylglutamyllysylmethio-nylleucylalanylalanylleucyllysylvalylphenylalanylvalylglutaminylp-rolylmethionyllysylalanylalanylthreonylarginylserine (1,913 letters): The full name of the tryptophan synthetase A protein, an enzyme with 267 amino acids.
  • the chemical name for titin is 189,819 letters long and takes three and a half hours to pronounce. To see the full name and to watch the 3.5-hour video of the name being pronounced, go here.

Don’t Try to Pronounce It If You Are Wearing False Teeth


The 85-characters long Maori name for a hill in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, is the longest place name found in any English speaking country. It is, Taumatawhakatangihangaoauauotameteaturipukakapikimaungah-oronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, which roughly translates as, “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land-eater, played his nose flute to his loved ones”.

Tamatea was a famous chief and warrior. One day, while travelling through the back of Porangahau, he encountered another tribe and had to fight them to get past. During the fight his brother was killed. Tamatea was so grieved over the loss of his brother that he stayed at the battle site for some days. Each morning he would sit on the hill and play a lament on what is called the koauau or Maori flute.


Don’t Be a Writer If You Can’t Handle Rejection Letters

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

“Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable soddingrotters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today. They’ve got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery it’s a marvel they can breed.” — English author D.H. Lawrence, in a letter to Edward Garnett, expressing anger that his manuscript for Sons and Lovers was rejected. (July 3, 1912)


More Words We Need in English


As rich as the English language is, there are plenty of words in other languages that English has not yet adopted. Here are a few of these much-needed gems:

  • Hikikomori (Japanese) — A teenager or 20-something who has withdrawn from social life, often obsessed with TV and video games.
  • Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (Tibetan) — Literally, it means “giving a green answer to a blue question,” and refers to the practice of giving an answer that is unrelated to the question.
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) — To go outside to check if an expected visitor has arrived, over and over again.
  • Kummerspeck (German) — Literally meaning “grief bacon,” this refers to excess weight gained from emotional overeating.
  • Kaelling (Danish) — An ugly, miserable woman who yells obscenities at her kids. Evidently they have conventions at Walmart whenever I need to go shopping.
  • Bufetak (Czech) — A man who hangs around in cafes and eats leftovers.
  • Shibui (Japanese) — Having a simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.
  • Layogenic (Tagalog) — A person who is only attractive from a distance.
  • Neidbau (German) — A building (often of little or no value to the proprietor) constructed with the sole purpose of harassing or inconveniencing his neighbor in some way.
  • Skämskudde (Swedish) — A real or imagined pillow one hides behind when experiencing vicarious embarrassment due to watching something embarrassing.
  • Sitzriese (German) – A person who appears tall when seated but short when standing.
  • Pochemuchka (Russian) – A person who asks too many questions.
  • Pilkunnussija (Finnish) — A person who believes it is his or her destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes at the cost of popularity, self-esteem and mental well-being.
  • Ojama Shimasu (Japanese) — Uttered when entering someone’s home as a guest, it literally means, “I’m going to bother you.”

For more examples, check out this great post by our friends at Bookshelf.

An Odd Bit of Odds

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

In 2011 European bookies were putting the odds of Queen Elizabeth II abdicating and replacing Bruce Forsyth as the host of the popular BBC dance competition Strictly Come Dancing at 50,000 to 1. source

To put that in context consider the odds of the following:

  • Being struck by lightning in one’s lifetime: 1 in 12,000 source
  • Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 7,178 source
  • Dying in a car crash: 1 in 5,000 source
  • Being elected President of the United States: 1 in 10 million source
  • Being killed by a shark: 1 in 3,748,067 source
  • A well-shuffled deck of cards returning to the same order twice: 1 in 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000 source


Which is More Formidable?

The Duke of Windsor
The Duke of Windsor

The Duke of Windsor’s visits with French troops in the early days of World War II were helpful in boosting morale, but his flaccid grasp of the French language sometimes resulted in unintended levity. At one luncheon where he was the guest of the French Army, he remarked that after the war, France and England should join hands to make a formidable peace. That was his intent, anyway. What he said in French could better be translated as “a formidable fart.”

The Windsor Story, by J. Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy