Today it’s floccinaucinihilipilification.
No, I didn’t just make that up. 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.
Flocci—a wisp (of wool, for example)
+Pili—a hair/something insignificant
= 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.
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!)