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The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Nuts and Bolts: RkReÜAÜG

No one needs RkReÜAÜG any more.
In most ways this is a good thing, because RkReÜAÜG is a law ordering that cattle must be checked for mad cow disease. We must all rejoice that these checks no longer required.

To make things even better, the removal of the word RkReÜAÜG from the list of official German words will save quite a lot of ink. (The full version of the word, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, is almost enough to empty an ink cartridge all by itself.)

The slightly sad thing about RkReÜAÜG's loss is that it was the longest official word (that is, one that appeared in official texts) in the German language.

German words that consist, as Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz does, of lots of words tacked together are called Bandwurmwörter - "tapeworm words", and, in theory, a German word made like this can go on forever.

The fondness of the German language for Bandwurmwörter does produce some oddities, but it's a good way of making new words because the results are usually easy to understand. The trouble is that they're often too long to use easily: even the German word for lorry - Lastkraftwagen - is usually said Lkw.

German-speaking people have a lot of fun with Bandwurmwörter. There's a game which begins with Donaudampfschiff - Danube steamship - the point of which is to see what can be done to make it even longer. The champion, so far as I know, is  Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, or the Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services.

Yes, it's ridiculous. But, as I must point out, it's shorter than the English translation.

Word To Use Today: The longest word in the English language is of course the word smiles, because there's a mile between one end of it and the other.

It comes from the Middle High German smielen.



  1. What about the world 'slightyears'? Because there's a light-year between the start and the end of that, and a light-year, as we all know, is soooo much longer than a mile.

    A German speaking friend recently read me that word that's just been taken out of the German dictionary. It was a jolly romp to listen to, although I had to lie down after and he went a bit dizzy.

    Oh, I should come clean: I made up the word 'slightyears'. But I did have you going for a second, didn't I? Come on! Admit it!

    1. This did make me laugh, Ed! Thanks!

      I love slightyears, even though at first I thought it was one of Noddy's classier chums.

      Anyway, if you and I use slightyears, and understand it, doesn't that make it a word?

      Ah. But come to think about it I don't understand it...Rats.

      There's always a snag, isn't there.


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