What is the longest word in the German language? It's good language for concatenation.

See subject.

Ignoring the old loophole that sounded-out molecules can go on almost forever.

The propensity for concatenation that you mentioned makes it hard to define the longest German word, because you can always tack on some more - see Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän and Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft here. Those are made-up words, though. As per that site, one of the longest words that is actually in use, if only in a very specialized field, appears to be Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law).

As in German all numbers smaller than a million, spelled out, are one word (with longer numbers you can come up for air after ‘million’), I can top Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (63 characters) with siebenhundertsiebenundsiebzigtausendsiebenhundertsiebenundsiebzig (the number 777777), at 65 characters.

When would you write out such a number. English stops doing so at ten–unless it begins a sentence, or when you are told to spell it out, on a check.

Semi-seriously, you can only use that word in a sentence such as "the pronunciation of ‘777777’ is …’

(Or, in fact, something like the sentence you wrote above. :))

There’s no universal rule in English on this. AP Style says spell out anything ten and under. Chicago Manual Style says spell out up to one hundred, but lists spelling only up to ten as a possibility. And then they both have different rules for cardinal numbers starting a sentence. AP says always spell it out, unless it’s a year. Chicago says always spell it out, or reword it.

The longest word in the German language that is not a sounded-out numeral, and which is spelled using standard English orthography, is “Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz.”*#

*Thanks to Fish Cheer for helping me achieve this lofty goal.
#The rewriting of the sentence with “Welsh” substituted for “German,” and the correct word in in Welsh substituted for “Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz” would probably be longer.

I didn’t know that. But English, certainly American English, does not have any universal rules for standard orthography, or standard grammar, word formation, etc., at all, correct?

I believe Israel has one, France has one, and I’m pretty sure Germany has one (I believe I remember the doing away with the “ß”).

Not that a police state will enforce this or anything.

But since I brought it up, how, where did the “ß” make its absence felt?

Apologies: I belatedly checked Fish Cheer’s cite to about.com and see extensive documentation about German “official” formation of such things.

I think in America any such attempt would be politically untenable and rejected in principle.

If we limit us to words listed in the Duden (basically the German dictionary), then the longest word is Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (car insurance), or, disallowing hyphenation, Arbeiterunfallversicherungsgesetz (something like worker’s accident insurance law). (According to the Duden’s official site, that is.)

When I was studying German, I learned about the kangaroo that was kept in the cage with the covers that kept out the weather where formerly was confined the Hottentot assassin of the mother of the two stupid and stuttering children.

IOW the Hottentottenstottertrottelmutterattentaterlattengittenwetterkotterbeutelratte.


Your German teacher sounds cool.

I never had any, except my Grandfather when he got really old, who used to speak to me in German thinking it was in English.

And when I was a kid my parents would speak German at the table when they didn’t want the kids to understand. Right in front of us! <Grrr.>

I think that was the prime moving force in my learning to read and understand German (I sound moronic speaking it).

ETA: My wife and I speak in fucked-up (on my part) Yiddish in dicey situations in the subway or bus. One day we’ll meet a mugger-looking guy who understands it, no doubt.

Just a little nitpick: the ß isn’t all gone. It’s just not used after short vowels anymore. After long vowels and diphthongs it lives a happy and fruitful life. Many people seem to think it’s gone, though, because the very common word “daß” is now spelled “dass”.


And, as Shodan says,


And to think I was always happy with *Einbahnstraße *back when I was studying in high school.


Have you asked Johann Gambolputty de von AusfernschplendenschlittercrasscrenbonfrieddiggerdingledangledongledunglebursteinvonknackerthrasherapplebangerhorowitzticolensicgranderknottyspelltinklegrandlichgrumblemeyerspelterwasserkurstlichhimbleeisenbahnwagengutenabendbitteeinnürnburgerbratwürstelgespurtenmitzweimacheluberhundsfutgumberaberschönendankerkalbsfleischmittlerauchervonHautkopft of Ulm?

:smiley: that was great. Somehow I missed it. This could turn into a nice “longest word in fiction” thread.

:smiley: I find it impossible not to do this when I glance at Cyrillic text.
There must be many scenes, bits, etc. on people reading aloud the Declaration of Independance with a ton of ff’s.

Which probably comes from ß, no? Just thought of that.

Lest we forget, English has germanic roots, and sometimes gets messed up the same way. The reason we have cutesy store names like ‘Ye olde sweets shoppe’ is not that there was ever a real word ‘Ye’, but that the original of ‘th’ was a single letter (called ‘thorn’ -?) that looks too much like ‘Y’. If I got that right.

‘ß’ was originally a Fraktur ligature of ‘s’ (a long ‘s’) and ‘z’ - see here.

German and English used to use both a long ‘s’ and a short ‘s’; Greek still does.