Germany loses its longest word

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

The German language has one less long word to worry about.

"Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz," a 65-letter word meaning "law delegating beef label monitoring," has been dropped following changes to European Union law regulating the testing of cattle, the BBC reports.

The so-called "tapeworm" word—common in Germany—was introduced in 1999 during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka "mad cow disease") crisis. But now that the EU has halted testing of "healthy cattle at abattoirs," the BBC said, "the need for the word vanished."

With "rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz" ousted, the 49-letter "Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe" ("widow of a Danube steamboat company captain") appears to have inherited the longest-word mantle, though it does not appear in the German standard language dictionary. The longest word found in there is "Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung," or "automobile liability insurance."

The longest word in the English language is the subject of nerdy debate, mostly over whether chemical terms should be considered words. The chemical name of the largest known protein, for instance, has 189,819 letters. (Last year, a man attempted to pronounce it in a three-hour, 30-minute YouTube video.)

"Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust, was the longest word to appear in a major dictionary when it turned up in the Webster's New International Dictionary in 1939.

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," a song from the 1964 Disney film "Mary Poppins," appears in the Oxford English Dictionary.