Hippopotomonstrosesqui-what???

"I wonder if they even put rude words in the dictionary?" asked C1

“I wonder if they even put rude words in the dictionary?” asked C1


“Mum, what does ‘antidisestablishment’ mean?” asked C1 after school the other day. Apparently, a boy used it in her class as an example of a word start with A.

Really?!? What about simple A words like ace, apt and awe; or positive ones like appreciation and affection; or funny ones like armpits, amoeba and abracadabra?

How does a seven-year-old even pronounce “antidisestablishment” without tripping over all those vowels and consonants – let alone know what it means??
I didn’t.

Turns out, antidisestablishment is the opposition to the withdrawal of State support from an established church (usually, the Anglican Church in 19th century England).

Antidisestablishment (or the even longer “antidisestablishmentarianism”) is hardly used nowadays – unless you’re in a trivia quiz or you’re a seven-year-old out to impress your classmates!

Story-time with Nana

Story-time with Nana

I like big words and I cannot lie. 😉
Seriously though, their origins and etymology, their roots and meaning fascinate me.
So when a new word puts a quizzical look on C1 and C2’s faces, we first try to break it down into itty-bitty parts to figure it out ourselves before we consult a dictionary.

Of course, the kids will point out that authors like Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl need their very own dictionary for the scrumdiddlyumptious words they crafted.

Dahl and Seuss

Yesterday, we dissected “centipede”. Not the creature – just the word.
Centi is Latin for hundred, while ped is foot. So a centipede is an insect with a hundred feet (more or less!).

I’m all for long words if they work for you. For me, multi-syllabic words need to be fun. Like onomatopoeia. Bet you still remember that figure of speech from your school days just because of the way it trilled on your tongue. Melodic!

If you’re after a long word, here’s a fun one for you: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
If you’re going “hippopoto-wha???” it simply means the fear of long words!
When you break it down, you have:
hippopoto from hippopotamus
monstro from monstrous
sesquippedalio from sesquipedalian which means many syllables(!)
and phobia which means fear.
Perfect!

My kids’ favourite long word: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
A cool way to say amazing! I think Mary Poppins would agreed.


So tell me, do you have a favourite word – long or short? Or a word that you often use? Do you break words down to figure out their meaning? Do you enjoy word games like Scrabble or solving cryptic crosswords?

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