Saturday, December 17, 2005

You Won't Learn THIS Crap On "Sesame Street"

(Disclaimer: This entry contains lots of twelve-dollar words. If big words make you nervous, here's a website you'll find more to your liking.)

When I was a tender tyke, I had a talent for being a (nearly) champion speller. One particularly fond memory was of winning a spelling bee after I had already been buzzed out (the pronouncer had mispronounced the word "ingenuous", saying "ingenious", which I spelled correctly. I was reinstated to the bee in time for the final round, which I won. Nyaah).

Just because I was such an annoying child, I mastered the oral spelling of the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" in four seconds flat (a skill which I still have to this day and which, I assure you, doesn't even appeal to anyone as a drunken party trick). I didn't know what antidisestablishmentarianism meant, nor did I care. It was, as far as my tiny, immature brain could conceive, the longest word in the English language, and spelling it became a really good way to annoy my family and (rapidly-dwindling number of) friends.

In fact, it was not until I was researching another article last week that I had occasion to look up the word. Antidisestablishmentarianism really does mean something other than "long, obnoxious word". In the 19th century, it referred to opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England as the official state religion. Today, it means opposition to the belief that there should no longer be an official church in a country.

"What does this have to do with ANYTHING?" I hear you scream. Well, this leads us to the most entertaining website on the Internet: Wikipedia. You won't find the entry for "antidisestablishmentarianism" particularly entertaining. But leave it to those linguistic lackeys who contribute and revise Wikipedia to make this 28-letter word even longer (and, oddly, much more interesting) ...

Of course, I haven't seen anyone professing antidisestablishmentarianism by that name lately. Perhaps this particular movement is dead. Perhaps I'll restart it. That's right, it's neoantidisestablishmentarianism ...

We're up to 31 letters now.

In that case I will start a counter-movement: contraneoantidisestablishmentarianism [37 letters]

Making your actions: contraneoantidisestablishmentarianistic [39 letters].

Contraneoantidisestablishmentarianistically [43 letters] inclined people of the world, unite: you have nothing to lose but your brains!
All that in one entry. Kill him.

What about pseudocontraneoantidisestablismentarianistically? that's longer.
Yep, we're up to 49 letters now. I can't even think that long.

I hate those people who love to pretend to be a contraneoantidisestablishmentarianist, therefore I will act contrapseudocontraneoantidisestablishmentarianistically.
55 letters ... ugh. Those overly-erudite wags have managed to nearly double the length of a word that was already the longest non-engineered-for-length word in the English languge.

And at my most obnoxious, even I would never attempt to spell contrapseudocontraneoantidisestablishmentarianistically aloud, because I would become an outcast in my own community, and deservedly so.

Now that displays of intelligence and independent thinking are considered un-American, it seems the only place language geeks can go to show off their brains is behind the scenes at Wikipedia.

Personally, I blame Dubya. (So what else is new?)

posted by Gary @ 3:32 PM


At 5:50 PM, Blogger Amal said...

:)) I was led to your blog by crazy. I love your post. :)) I will be back

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

You better not ever learn German. Mark Twain wrote the longest word he found was: Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen

The German Wikipedia also delves into this with an authentic example: Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

You can add the prefix pseudo to lend a Kafkaesque air to the word.

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

Yeah Dutch is pretty famous for using lots of long-ass words too. We just haven't mastered the art of using hyphens yet.

I got as far as pseudocontraneoantidisestablismentarianistically before my tongue tripped on the letters :)

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch! That hurt my head.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

Personally, I blame Dubya.

I'm just glad he's not nearly bright enough to spell it much less realize that he is a modern, american antidisestablishmentarianistic nutjob.

(That was nerve-wracking trying to spell that correctly! LOL!)


At 11:10 AM, Blogger Seawave said...

A kindred spirit in spelling. I won a spelling bee in elementary school after spelling a word correctly that the moderator spelled incorrectly. The word was vacuum. But I digress. I too took pride in not only spelling, but actually pronouncing antidisestablishmentarianism, and never had a clue what the word actually meant.


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