Years ago a friend of mine amazed people at parties with his ability to say and spell the longest word in the English language: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
These days, I use it at school as a way to practice dealing with unfamiliar words since it seems so intimidating to the kids, but when broken down is really easy to understand. Via Wikipedia:
- pneumono = related to lungs (Latin, from Greek)
- ultra = beyond (Latin, as in “ultraviolet”)
- microscopic = extremely small (Latin/Old English, from Greek mikron, small, and skopos, view)
- silico = silica (Latin)
- volcano = volcano (Latin)
- coni = related to dust (Greek: konis, dust)
- osis = disease / condition (Greek)
So basically, a lung disease caused by breathing the silica dust from volcanoes.
Though the word has been included in dictionaries, it is considered a ‘fake’ word that has never actually been used in medical literature. Apparently the only purpose for this word is to answer the question, “What’s the longest English word?”
According to A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, the longest non-scientific word other than the nonsense word Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is floccinaucinihilipilification followed by antidisestablishmentarianism.
Ultimately, going back to Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, we wind up begging the question: Is a word a word if it’s only ever used as an example of a word?
Perhaps I could answer by saying, “Bkk-de skinb plewd blerty uloufopoly,” but then I’d just be making up nonsense words.
I’d have to remember that if I were suffering from a case of Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, I could use that term to describe my condition even if my doctors only referred to it as silicosis.
My verdict: if the word can be used to convey accurate meaning, then it is a word, and if you disagree, then bkk-de skinb plewd blerty uloufopoly to you!