Floccinaucinihilipilification: Hashtag That

Today it’s floccinaucinihilipilification.

No, I didn’t just make that up. I could spell it when I was eight, but it was only last week the meaning was engrained into my memory.

The term ‘creatio ex nihilo’, meaning the creation of something from nothing, cropped up in my Philosophy class. To give this a bit of background, I’d previously asked my teacher whether ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’ had Greek or Latin roots. And she didn’t know, which completely baffled me—after all, why would you be happy to remain in ignorance of the etymology of terms you use and teach all the time? I guess not everyone can be a linguist, but…but… *bites lip* Since then, she’s taken to translating all the foreign terms that come up in the syllabus, including their roots (though she couldn’t define ‘despotic’. Meh).

To return to the tale in question, I’d never seen the fragment ‘nihil’ anywhere else, except in this word I’d known since I was eight: floccinaucinihilipilification. Strange how our minds work!

I looked it up later in the day, and found that not only had I spelt it correctly all those years in my mind, but that I was correct about the ‘nihil’ bit.

A bunch of boys from Eton found a list of nouns in their Latin grammar books: ‘flocci, nauci, etc’. (Sorry if I got all the cases and declensions wrong.) They collected a loads of semi-synonymic words and made them into the twenty-nine-letter monster ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’.

Longest word used in the British House of Commons, as of February 2012.

If you haven’t Googled this word yet, don’t. Give me a moment, and I’ll deign to explain.

*deep breath*

Flocci—a wisp (of wool, for example)

+Nauci—a trifle

+Nihili—nothing

+Pili—a hair/something insignificant

+fication

= the act of regarding something as unimportant, worthless or having no value

I floccinaucinihilipilificate long words. And make sure you pronounce it with optimum ease and fluency.

I spent my lunch period yesterday teaching a few strangers that word. I didn’t bring it up; they caught sight of it doodled in my planner.

To digress, one of them is a Lord of the Rings fan. Like, a real hardcore one, who makes me feel like a fraud.

She has read The Lord of the Rings (and that includes all three volumes and The Hobbit, not much less than 450,000 words) eight hundred and forty-eight times. Each of them.

I couldn’t resist taking out my calculator and pumping the sums. Taking that as four books, she’s read 3392 books at least in her lifetime. That’s like reading a book (and we’re talking about long books) every day of your life for nine years three and a half months. I’m almost inclined to disbelieve her, but she started when she was five and has read nothing else ever since. It’s just too incredible to contradict. Even if she added a couple of hundred on for effect (though she did consult a note on her phone to give me this figure), five or six hundred times is scarcely less staggering.

Another of the girls I met four years ago at Confirmation classes (that’s a Catholic initiation thing we do in Year 8 over here). Most of the other people had been to the Catholic primary schools, and she and I were the only girls with no friends. Being equally timid in addition, we ended up together every week, exchanging awkward conversation and generally hating every moment of the whole isolation thing. Funny how now I’m the most active Catholic from that yeargroup. The other girl is still just as timid as I remember. I’m gradually gaining confidence.

The third girl with us yesterday lunchtime remains a mystery to me. Someone told me at the beginning of this term that she reminded him of me. Apparently they were at the same primary school, and in Year 7 he was surprised by how similar this other girl and I seemed. (That makes very little sense, but oh well.) Now it seems we’re thrown together, having the same lunchtimes and a few common friends.

How similar? This story was a pretty creepy thing to hear, to be honest, and since then a series of really strange coincidences have led to my intense curiosity. I’m still trying to discern exactly in what way she resembles me, but we’ve communicated well in the few times we’ve shared company (which is more than I can say for many at the moment).

But I digress. I’ve made new acquaintances. That’s basically what’s going on in my life at the moment. Oh, and I’m doing my Silver Qualifying from Thursday till Tuesday. Wish me luck! (If I can only stay out of A&E, I’ll be delighted!)

Floccinaucinihilipilification.

Hashtag that!

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3 thoughts on “Floccinaucinihilipilification: Hashtag That

  1. Floccinaucinihilipilification is definitely one of those words redundant in and of itself. I’m trying to think of another obvious one, but it has slipped my mind for the time-being.

    Did you ever look up the a priori and a posteriori roots? From the top of my head, I believe it’s Latin – ‘prior’ means ‘before’ and the ‘a’s are typical of ablative singular ‘from’ shapes.

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