30-Second Word Whoop: “Sesquipedalian”

the-longest-word-in-europe-is-longest-word-europe-audio-letters-wordsThis site is no dictionary.com. We prefer to “riff” on words rather than act as an authority or stretch your vocabulary. Still, sometimes we run into a stretttttttttchy word like “sesquipedalian” that stops us short.

“Sesquipedalian” may sound like a six-footed monster or belabored joke, but surprise! The definition:

adj.
1. given to using long words.

2. (of a word) containing many syllables.

noun
3. a sesquipedalian word.

Literally, it means “a foot and a half long.” Let’s break it down: sesqui- comes directly from the Latin sesqui (“one and a half”); + pedal, from Latin pedis, form of pes (“foot”), + adjective suffix –alis or in this case -ian.

In order for “sesquipedalian” to be truly a foot and a half long, it would have to be written in 74-point type. I know, because I tested it.

Sesquipedalian is not a great Twitter word. At 14 characters, it would take up a tenth of your tweet. You’d think I could get away with tweeting out 10 sesquipedalians at once but, because of spaces, Twitter restricts me to eight. It works without spaces, but it’s a little hard to read that way. I know, because I tested it.

Tweet
(UPDATE: That tweet, by the way, has become my most favorited tweet by dozens of strangers worldwide. Who knew there were so many on Twitter thirsty for long words?)

IMG_1329[1]

2013 photo by Terry Byrne

In Scrabble, sesquipedalian technically would be worth 26 points at face value — who knows how many more taking bonus spaces into account. But it would have to be built on successive turns. Don’t think you could start with “quip”; you’d have to start with “pedal.” Then the next person could play “ian” in back, which is a stand-alone word, so you could clean up with “qui” in front and “ses” in back.

Of course, you are what words you use. Meaning: using the word “sesquipedalian” could make you it. Nyah-nyah.

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

One response to “30-Second Word Whoop: “Sesquipedalian””

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