Long Words

Carl Zimmer in his blog, The Loom:

250pxlatin_dictionary_2As I’ve mentioned before, my brother Ben also blogs. An editor at Oxford American Dictionaries, he writes about words over at “From A to Zimmer.” Not surprisingly, our blogs usually don’t overlap. But Ben’s latest entry–on very, very long words, has prompted me to pose a question of my own here.

In his post, “Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism!”, Ben points out that a lot of the longest words are, as he puts it, “stunt words.” They’re cobbled together from prefixes and suffixes, but never actually used in real life. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism is a case in point–a word that is used to describe long words.

Then Ben moves onto my turf, pointing out that scientists do a wonderful job of manufacturing huge words. The biochemists are arguably the best at it, concocting words like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. But in real life, they just use short-hand: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane becomes the easy-to-spell, easy-to-pronounce DDT.

More here.