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Thursday, March 17, 2011

a "jocular coinage"

So Wiktionary describes the utterly ridiculous, perfectly worthless word brought to me by an excited 7th grade science student today.

floccinaucinihilipilification: A jocular coinage, apparently by students at Eton, combining a number of roughly synonymous Latin stems. Latin flocci, from floccus, a wisp or piece of wool + nauci, from naucum, a trifle + nihili, from the Latin pronoun, nihil ("nothing") + pili, from pilus, a hair, something insignificant (all therefore having the sense of "pettiness" or "nothing") + -fication. "Flocci non facio" was a Latin expression of indifference, literally "I do not make a straw of...".

If you still need the definition, here it is, according, again, to Wiktionary: "The act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant," which makes me really hope that this word was invented, tongue-in-cheek, simply to invent a big, ridiculous, gratuitously and simultaneously self-referential and worthless word, which, as it turns out, is one letter longer than the only slightly less ridiculous antidisestablishmentarianism (which Blogger, by the way, recognizes as a perfectly "real" and correctly-spelled word).

The thing that bothers me is that this word is recognized by dictionaries (not many, as it turns out, but one's more than enough)!  Dictionaries are supposed to recognize words that are in use.  As far as I can tell, the only usage of this word is not for any sort of communication but merely as a vehicle for the title of world's longest "non-technical" word.  Thankfully, and just so for the blessed sake of the great English language, whose development and evolution I'm generally in favor of, Oxford makes its usage (and only by ignominious association with its by-one-letter-shorter compatriot) simply, and with perfectly little "ink," known here.


  1. To be fair, we might use antidisestablishmentarianism a bit more if we actually lived in Britain. Anyway, I stand behind the word, even though I'm a disestablishmentarianist, which this DOES underline.

  2. I agree, and I really don't have much problem with antidis...; I have a problem with inventing words without a use save making a big word. Words are for communication.

  3. I think everyone is taking this a bit too seriously, I mean it's intended as a joke, and yet you seem troubled by it. Why dwell upon that which you dislike when you can use your time more constructively, towards a positive endeavor?


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