Sunday, June 11, 2006

Word of the Week – Sesquipedalianist

This beauty of a word was discovered in the Books section of The Daily Telegraph (Saturday, 20th May 2006).

For the article A Writer’s Life, the journalist, Helen Brown, interviewed the author Will Self. I quote from her article:

‘In the public imagination, Self is a freak-show sesquipedalianist.’

Somehow, I think that is attributing too much to the public’s intellect. I would not mind betting that the majority have no idea as to the meaning of the word ‘sesquipedalianist’. I admit to being in the same category until I delved into the New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE). Before then, it took me about ten minutes to even say the word with any degree of fluency!

According to the NODE, the adjective, sesquipedalian, means ‘polysyllabic, characterized by long words, long-winded.’ It originated in the mid 17th century, being derived from the Latin, sesquipedalis, meaning ‘a foot-and-a-half long.’

Rather an appropriate word for such a meaning. However, anyone reading this article can now consider him or herself to be a sesquipedalianist by virtue of their newfound knowledge. I am reliably informed that one cannot be arrested for it.


Blue Sarah said...

I first came across this unusual word a few years ago when a question was posed on a TV game show "What is hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliaphobia?" It is of course, the abnormal, irrational fear of very long words. Now there's irony!
I chose "sesquipedalianist" for my email address when there were only a two other references to it on the web. I have found it to be a great conversation starter.

Robert Jaggs-Fowler said...

I apologise for the delay in publishing your comment. However, I have been away exploring Peru.

Thank you for this delightful word. I will have to incorporate it in greater detail!

Dr T.

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