Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:



BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 10 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1152

Rapid Response:

Wool gathering and the longest word

Surprising that Minerva hasn't heard of floccinaucinihilipilification
before; she can't have been reading the BMJ (see "Wool gathering" BMJ, Oct
1997; 315: 840).

As for the longest word in English, that is hard to determine (see
BMJ, Aug 1997; 315: 292). Thomas Love Peacock's 51 letter monster,
osseocarnisanguineoviscericartilaginonervomedullary, could be a contender,
but is a hapax legomenon. Leaving aside
"porkchopbeefsteakhamandeggshamburgersteakorliverandbacon", which is cited
under "hamburger", the longest unhyphenated word in the Oxford English
Dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, but its
status as a word could be disputed, since it may have been fabricated for
the specific purpose of having a long word to cite. Chambers Dictionary
contains two other contenders: trichlorophenylmethyliodisalicyl (TCP)and
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).
And has anyone ever performed hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomy? Or
diagnosed pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism? Or synthesized
tetramethyldiaminobenzhydrylphosphinous acid?

And isn't this all supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Competing interests:
Fanatical about words.

Competing interests: No competing interests

15 November 2005
Jeff Aronson
Reader in Clinical Pharmacology
University of Oxford, OX2 6HE