From the Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Tom Scott asks, “what’s the longest word in the English language?”
“And as often happens with linguistics, the answer depends on how you define things. What counts as a word, after all?”
Hear Scott discuss a series of very long words, including pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, floccinaucinihilipilification, antidisestablishmentarianism, internationalization (or i18n), and, of course, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. (Watch that next.)
But why don’t we hear these words more often? Besides not discussing these topics in daily conversation, Scott summarizes:
“Language doesn’t generally support—at least, the English language doesn’t generally support—long words. Because they’re inconvenient, because they’re unwieldy, because they slow everyone down. We shortened ‘internet’ to ‘net,’ for crying out loud, because three syllables was too much.
“This isn’t a real place name; this isn’t what anyone calls this place; it was a publicity stunt from Victorian times. Even years later, here I am reciting that name to you because it’s now a tourist destination.”