A great loss to the German language

What does mad cow disease and the longest word in the German language have in common with each other? Stop dawdling with reading this caption and read the rest of this here blog to find out.

What does mad cow disease and the longest word in the German language have in common with each other? Stop dawdling with reading this caption, and read the rest of this here blog to find out.

Luxembourgers speak French, German and Luxembourgish, and many of them also speak English and a variety of other languages. As German speakers, I wonder if Luxembourgers are mourning the lost of the longest word in the German language.

The word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

Click on the play button to here how it’s pronounced.

And if saying that didn’t make you pass out from a lack of oxygen, then you are German.

According to the Associated Press, the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has eliminated the 63-letter word, which means “the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labelling of beef.” Germany, as a member of the European Union, must now conform to laws concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labeling of beef at the EU level. As such, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, created in 1999 in response to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, is no more.

From the perspective of someone who watched way too many Hitler documentaries on the History Channel when he was sick and stayed home from school, Germans seem to spew mouthfuls when it comes to certain words. I took German in high school, so I can empathize with Mark Twain, who attempted to learn German when he was 15 and then revisited the language later in his career. In his essay “The Awful German Language” (1880), Twain writes:

Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these examples:

  • Freundschaftsbezeigungen.
  • Dilettantenaufdringlichkeiten.
  • Stadtverordnetenversammlungen.

These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them marching majestically across the page — and if he has any imagination he can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to the meekest subject. I take a great interest in these curiosities. Whenever I come across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum. In this way I have made quite a valuable collection. When I get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here are some specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:

  • Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen.
  • Alterthumswissenschaften.
  • Kinderbewahrungsanstalten.
  • Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen.
  • Wiedererstellungbestrebungen.
  • Waffenstillstandsunterhandlungen.

Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape — but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel through it. So he resorts to the dictionary for help, but there is no help there. The dictionary must draw the line somewhere — so it leaves this sort of words out. And it is right, because these long things are hardly legitimate words, but are rather combinations of words, and the inventor of them ought to have been killed.

In fact, these Teutonic talkers have a word to describe lengthy words: Bandwurmwörter.

What does it mean in English?

“Tapeworm words.”

Anyway, with the linguistic funeral of Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, the longest word in German is now Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung, which translates to “motor vehicle indemnity or liability insurance.”

Wow, these Germans certainly no how to come up with really long words to describe really boring laws!

In fact, m0st of these Bandwurmwörter can be found in codes of law or books on chemistry, according to Anatol Stefanowitsc, a language expert in Berlin. This probably means Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany who studied chemistry at the University of Leipzig, enjoys saying Bandwurmwörter in her free time, as well as saving the euro zone from the precipice on which it finds itself teetering more often than not.

RIP, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

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