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German Loses Its Longest Word

And the precious debate over Hebrew’s longest word

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Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

We hardly knew ye, rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. We could hardly pronounce or format ye, rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

63 letters long and 14 years old, rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz may have been born out of the desire to protect consumers from mad cow disease, but RkREÜAÜG, as it was affectionately called, also spoke (however difficultly) to the infinite nature of our imaginations.

RkREÜAÜG became defunct because the European Union proposed abandoning BSE tests of healthy cattle, but that is beside the point. What matters now is that Germany no longer has an official longest word.

Technically, there is no limit to word length in German because, like Finnish and Hungarian, it allows words to be joined together to create compound nouns at will. Supersonic jet is Überschallgeschwindigkeitsflugzeug. If a football team makes it to the World Cup, it’s a Fussballweltmeisterschaftsendrundenteilnehmer.

While Germans fixate academically upon mourn their lost word, I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to other long words of others languages. There’s something nice about the fact that the elimination of rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz seemingly comes as an upshot of progress.

Perhaps, the same will come for Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, technically the longest word in English, which is a lung disease. The longest non-coined, non-technical word in English remains antidisestablishmentarianism, some 17 letters shorter than the disease also known as P-45 (for the number of letters).

Perhaps fittingly, the longest word in Swedish appears to be Realisationsvinstbeskattning, which means “capital gains tax.” Turkish has a 70-letter juggernaut–Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine–that seems as irrepressible as its meaning: As if you would be from those we can not easily/quickly make a maker of unsuccessful ones.

There doesn’t appear to be much scholarship on it out there, but if psychological fodder were ever to be dealt to one group of people, then consider the two options for the longest word in Hebrew:

The longest Hebrew word is the 19 letter-long: וכשלאנציקלופדיותינו (u’chshelentsiklopedioténu), which means “and when our encyclopedias will have…” The Hebrew word “אנצילוקפדיה” (encylopedia) is of a European origin. The longest word in Hebrew which doesn’t originate from another language is: “וכשלהתמרמרויותינו”, which crudely means “and when our resentments will have…”.

Haval. Meanwhile, a cursory hunt for the longest word in Yiddish did not bear much fruit beyond this little gem:

The longest word in Yiddish is “shmantidisestablishmentarianism”.

And there you have it.

Germany Seeks a New Longest Word [Spiegel]

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German Loses Its Longest Word

And the precious debate over Hebrew’s longest word

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