Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weird Word Wednesday

Welcome to Weird Word Wednesday. I love words, especially weird ones and I believe we can all do our part in adopting the rarely spoken word or two so that these fantastically bizarre words are not lost to the pages of dictionaries. And it might help you score ridiculously high in Scrabble (you just never know when you'll have an impromptu game of scrabble). 

Today's word is: 


–noun Rare. the estimation of something as valueless 
(encountered mainly as an example of one of the longest words in the English language)

It's a whopper ain't it? Not only is floccinaucinhilipilification one the longest words in the English language, it was first longest word: appearing in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (it was edged out by pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis in the second edition).  Floccinaucinihilipilification was created, quite understandingly, as a joke. A Latin joke, no less. 

This is a lot funnier if you have studied English, learned Latin and went to Eton College in the eighteenth century. 

Some, undoubtedly witty, youth created the word by stringing four latin words together flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili (which all mean "nothing" or "little value")  as they appeared in a text book and stuck -fication on the end making it a noun.  

Thus flocci, nauci, nihili, pili-fication is the act of deciding something is completely worthless. Ta Da!

 Most of my weird word selections will be more vocab friendly but I couldn't resist the longest word word about nothing. Long words are entertaining, it is such a human fixation to string the most letters together without slipping into gibberish. A fine line indeed. 

The down fall, as we can see from floccinaucinihilipilification, of having a longest word is that it is then unspoken challenge to the human race to create a longer one. The contest has even been taken to naming places (I'm sure this was a scheme cooked up by shrewd sign makers). 

A prime example is the longest place name in the USA, a lake in Massachusetts, topping out at 45 letters.

Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg; sometimes facetiously translated as "you fish your side of the water, I fish my side of the water, nobody fishes the middle". It's also know as Lake Webster, what cheaters. 

Long words seem to be the founders of the inside joke. Need proof? How about the longest official geographical name in Australia? 

Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill is a Pitjantjatjara word from the native aboriginal language literally translating as "where the devil urinates." Now that's funny. 

*Many thanks to Michael Quinion at 

1 comment:

  1. LOL Brilliant!
    Can you imagine someone giving those words to kids for a spelling bee??
    Picture the carnage...