Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious needs to be taken down a few notches. The moment that Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews danced to the nearly unreadable word in Mary Poppins, it was immortalized as one of the, if not the, longest words in the English language. But, as NPR's Robert Krulwich shrewdly notes, it doesn't even "mean anything." This, in part, leads the science blogger to undertake a little fact-finding mission to discover the longest real word in the English language. But what, exactly, constitutes "real"?
Well, preferably not a molecule that appears in a reference book for chemists--like the 1,185 character-long description of a Tobacco mosaic virus that begins "Glutaminylphenyl..." and continues on and on and on for a paragraph. Krulwich concludes that, yes, a word has to be "used" at some point to actually count as "real." So here's what he settles on, courtesy of a book by Sam Kean:
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis. Krulwich's simple definition: "It's a disease." But, unfortunately, that's as unsatisfying as "Glutaminyl..." because it's still "technical" jargon. Can't the crown be given to word that isn't technical and isn't "fragilistic..."? Sadly, the answer appears to be "No."
While Krulwich ends up solidifying the Poppins term's position, the Wire hopes that someone finds a way to add a 7 more letters to the 28 character antidisestablishmentarianism--just to wrestle away the crown.
[H/T: The Morning News]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.