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Jun 8, 2006
This week's theme
Loooong words

This week's words
pneumonoultramicroscopi- csilicovolcanoconiosis

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(FLOK-si-NO-si-NY-HIL-i-PIL-i-fi-KAY-shuhn) noun

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

Estimating something as worthless.

[From Latin flocci, from floccus (tuft of wool) + nauci, from naucum (a trifling thing) + nihili, from Latin nihil (nothing) + pili, from pilus (a hair, trifle) + -fication (making).]

This word was coined by combining four Latin terms flocci, nauci, nihili, pili, all meaning something of little or no value, which were listed in the well-known "Eton Latin Grammar" of Eton College in the UK.

The Oxford English Dictionary shows the first use of the word by William Shetstone in 1777: "I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money."

The word seems to be popular in the US government. It has been heard from the mouths of White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, Senator Robert Byrd, and Senator Jesse Helms among others. Maybe that tells us something about the US Congress's interest in the floccinaucinihilipilification of taxpayers' money.

"A number of you have phoned me saying that the BBC has plumbed the depths of nationalist floccinaucinihilipilification by simply making up the daftest imaginable Scottish name for the chairman of the Gigha community land steering commission - they haven't. I've checked. He really is called Willie MacSporran."
Giles Coren; Willie MacSporran; The Times (London, UK); Oct 31, 2001.


Civilizations in decline are consistently characterised by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity. -Arnold Toynbee, historian (1889-1975)

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