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January 1998
red button 01 - Diet
red button 02 - Capitulate,   recapitulate
red button 05 - Bridges
red button 06 - Comic strip words
red button 07 - Post hoc acronymic etymologies
red button 08 - A and an
red button 09 - Antonomasia
red button 12 - Oatmeal, etc.
red button 13 - Strong and weak verbs
red button 14 - Lewis Carroll coinages
red button 15 - Desperado, outlaw, gunslinger
red button 16 - Much ado about nothing
red button 19 - James Watt's words
red button 20 - Candle-
related phrases
red button 21 - Service
club names
red button 22 - Baconian adages
red button 23 - Latin abbrev.
red button 26 - Blue
red button 27 - Apocryphal word origins
red button 28 - The Chinese connection
red button 29 - Antidises-
red button 30 - Vowelless
3-letter word

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Word for the Wise

Script for January 29, 1998

Generations of schoolchildren have grown up believing that the longest word in the English language (excluding specialized scientific words and nonsense terms) is antidisestablishmentarianism. Observant types (and good spellers) will note that antidisestablishmentarianism contains twenty-eight letters.

But we'd bet that very few folks ever found antidisestablishmentarianism in their schoolroom dictionary. Why? Because although the word is often included in lists of long words, is appears so rarely in everyday writing or speech that dictionaries (even very large unabridged dictionaries) hardly ever include an entry for it.

One of the very few dictionaries that does enter the term is the Oxford English Dictionary, the twenty-volume historical dictionary of our language. The OED notes that antidisestablishmentarianism is defined as "opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England," but notes that sense is rare and that the word is most often "cited as an example of a long word." Even the venerable OED can offer no citations of antidisestablishmentarianism in actual usage; it only lists a single 100-year-old example mentioning "strong antidisestablishmentarians...[in] the North of Scotland."

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