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Wrestling with written words
Apr 20, 2012
Do you love to dazzle your friends with words that seem to go on forever? Well, here are a few more “biggies” to add to your collection.
Would it be good or bad if you were a “sesquipedalian?”
Would you be written up in those trashy supermarket magazines as an oddity, or would you have qualities to be admired?  Would you end up on a reality TV show, with the introduction, “Today’s focus: the dangers of being a sesquipedalian!”   
Well in case you didn’t know, a sesquipedalian is a person who uses long words.
And here’s one of the longest words I’ve ever found: “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicoconiosis.” Looks like a computer-printer gone berserk, doesn’t it?  It’s 38 letters long and the word refers to a lung condition. By the time the doctor told you what was wrong with you, you’d be better! 
Here's another long one: “floccipaucinihilipilificacion.” Try to use this word in a sentence every day. This mouthful is 29 letters long and refers to the action of estimating as worthless.  
It would be a lot easier to just say, “unimportant.” Or give some of the extra letters to the word-needy, or just save them for another time.
The long words just keep on coming. “Antidisestablishmentarianism” is 28 letters of bafflegab referring to a political philosophy.  
Can’t you just imagine the campaign advertising?  “Cast your ballot for Antidisestablishmentarianism. Vote for it by name!  Make up campaign signs — really wide signs — and have several people carry each one!”
Now for a change of pace and length. Here’s a very short word: “set.” It’s interesting because it’s a short word with one of the longest entries in the dictionary.  In the Brittanica-Webster, there are nine inches of meanings listed. (In metric, that’s 229 millimetres, which sounds even more impressive.)  Listed are 52 different explanations of set, ranging from “to cause to sit” all the way to “fix by authority” and “electronic apparatus.”  Not bad for a little three-letter word.
Words you know or really don’t know:
• Postage — This word was originally used to signify the charge paid for hiring a horse.  It was first used in connection with mail rates in the British Post Office Act of 1785.
• Googol — It’s a very large number,  written as 1 followed by a 1,000 zeros, or 10 to the one-100th power.  What’s a googolplex?  A place where googols are stored? No. It’s a number even larger than a googol. Is there a fascinating scientific reason for choosing that particular name?  No, again. The term was introduced by an American mathematician and googol was simply a word his nine-year-old nephew often used.
Of course, this is all before today’s commonly-used Google, meaning the search engine and e-mail program.
• Robot — Where did that come from and when?  It was Czechoslovakian author Karel Capek who first came up with the word in 1921.  He used the term “robot” in one of his plays to conjure up the image of an army of mechanical monsters that took over the world.
• Ullage —- Now, I don’t know the origin of this word, but I threw it in because, like me, you may be interested to know what it means.  Who would have guessed that the empty space between the liquid in a bottle and the bottle-cap itself is called an ullage.  Strange word. It looks incomplete or like a misprint. Word “thinker-uppers” couldn’t be happy with “space?” They had to invent a special word?  These people need more to keep them busy.
Word games (answers follow): 
1.  Can you name the word that has all the vowels  in it, all in order? Hint: the vowels are not next to each other, but they are in order.
2. What is the longest word you can make out of the top row of letters on a typewriter or computer keyboard? 
3. Name 10 parts of the body that have three letters each.
Answers: 
1.  The word with all the vowels in order is facetious.
2. The longest word you can make out of the top row of letters on a typewriter or computer keyboard is typewriter. How’s that for irony?  
Here’s some trivia at no extra charge. A machine similar to a typewriter dates back to 1714, when Queen Anne of England granted a patent to Henry Mills, a London engineer, for a device to reproduce letters “one after the other ... so neat and exact as to not be distinguished from print.” 
3. Ten parts of the body that have three letters each are  ear, eye, leg, arm, hip, toe, jaw, rib, lip and gum.