The longest word in German is no more.

It was a 63-letter word to describe a law governing beef testing. But don’t worry; there are a lot of long German words to take its place. What allows German words to attain such a monstrous size? Are other languages like this? And what’s the longest word in English?

Linguist Daniel Midgley explains why size matters on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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For some reason, the other kids at my school thought you were smart if you could spell. And the ultra-hardest word was ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’. It was my ticket to fame, and all I had to do was spell one word.

My dad, for his part, once read somewhere that people with bigger vocabularies got paid more, and so encouraged me to learn lots of words so I’d make more money. A classic case of mistaking correlation and causation, I’m afraid. But it did start me building my empire of language podcasting and world domination, so maybe Dad was onto something there. Anyway, he thought the longest word was ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’. It’s either not the longest, or not a word, but what is? All will be answered in this week’s podcast.

There’s also something about the longest word in German, which Ben liked.

The offer stands: If you think you can pronounce any of the words in this podcast better than I can, make a video and post it!


Show notes

Here’s the word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, or “RkReÜAÜG” for short — not that you’ll need it anymore.
http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/germany-seeks-a-new-longest-word-a-903470.html

There’s a recording here.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10095976/Germany-drops-its-longest-word-Rindfleischeti….html

And here’s someone saying the next-longest German word better than I could.
http://www.forvo.com/search/Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung/

Mark Twain said some funny things about German.
http://www.kombu.de/twain-3.htm

More German compounds
http://german.about.com/od/nounsandcases/a/German-Compound-Words.htm

Long words in Finnish.
http://www.finnsnw.org/etc.html

This fish has a long name in Hawaiian.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reef_triggerfish

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is not a terribly real word, really.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

But somehow it made the cut.
http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-pne1.htm

Antidisestablishmentarianism might have actually been real.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antidisestablishmentarianism

Wikipedia sorts it out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_word_in_English

A list of the longest words in many languages.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_words

Once again, here’s Peter Norvig’s wonderful page where he plows through billions of words
http://norvig.com/mayzner.html

Some of those chemical terms can be quite long. This one’s 64,060 letters
http://profmaster.blogspot.com.au/2007/07/longest-chemical-name-64060-letters.html

but that’s nothing. Here’s the full name of titin.
http://www.digitalspy.com.au/odd/news/a444700/longest-word-has-189819-letters-takes-three-hours-to-pronounce.html

And here is someone reading it aloud, so you don’t have to.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFR-ADakI-c

Why not watch it at the same time as the 10-hour Bacon Pancake / New York video? Three times.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zalYJacOhpo


Show tunes

‘Schaufensterpuppen’ by Kraftwerk
from the album Trans-Europa Express

‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ by Outkast
from the album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik