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Sorry folks, I can’t resist this.

Apparently my years-long letter writing campaign has born fruit: Germany is officially dropping its longest word, 63 letters, the title of  a law regulating the testing of beef:

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

The article will even show you how to pronounce it, though you might want to be sitting down and wearing a seatbelt.

My parents were German immigrants and they always lamented how German was becoming more and more Americanized by taking American words and just lazily adding “-ieren”  or “-ierung” to the end to make them German (though look for -ierung in the word above. “Etikettierung” means “labeling.” Figure it out.) Still, I can’t imagine they would have a problem with this.

The linked article is great fun to read, and also includes the longest German word ever composed (though not in dictionaries):

Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft.

I’m not sure what to say to that other than Gesundheit.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

19 Comments

  • scott caulley says:

    this is hilarious! I studied and worked in Germany for a total of twelve years and came to appreciate the language and culture very much; I generally agree with your parents. On the other hand, when compared to Dutch or French (for example), which have officially tried to keep out all foreign language influences, I find the German openness to foreign loan-words to be much more practical. They tend to be quite “democratic,” using loan-words and their German equivalents in the same sentence (Rechner and Computer, Fernseher and TV). My favorite example of a loan word– and at the same time ammunition for the purists– I heard back when I was a student, referring to recent history, “als Nixon war gewatergatet…!”

    Scott Caulley

  • scott caulley says:

    this is hilarious! I studied and worked in Germany for a total of twelve years and came to appreciate the language and culture very much; I generally agree with your parents. On the other hand, when compared to Dutch or French (for example), which have officially tried to keep out all foreign language influences, I find the German openness to foreign loan-words to be much more practical. They tend to be quite “democratic,” using loan-words and their German equivalents in the same sentence (Rechner and Computer, Fernseher and TV). My favorite example of a loan word– and at the same time ammunition for the purists– I heard back when I was a student, referring to recent history, “als Nixon war gewatergatet…!”

    Scott Caulley

  • Bev Mitchell says:

    Not about the German language but about nations’ attitudes to language (to preserve or to set free) have you read “The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester? It’s a great little tale.

  • OrthoRocksDude says:

    Pete, do you know German? Just curious, being that you’re a biblical scholar and all, I figured maybe you did.

    • OrthoRocksDude says:

      If you do, do yo think it’s easier or harder than biblical Greek? : ) I’m learning Greek now.

      • peteenns says:

        I was raised with German, so it is hard for me to compare it to Greek from a learning point of view. I know that German is much harder than French. The verbal system can be a nightmare. The only think going for it is that nouns are capitalized. You can always find them.

  • OrthoRocksDude says:

    Pete, do you know German? Just curious, being that you’re a biblical scholar and all, I figured maybe you did.

    • OrthoRocksDude says:

      If you do, do yo think it’s easier or harder than biblical Greek? : ) I’m learning Greek now.

      • Pete E. says:

        I was raised with German, so it is hard for me to compare it to Greek from a learning point of view. I know that German is much harder than French. The verbal system can be a nightmare. The only think going for it is that nouns are capitalized. You can always find them.

  • Susan Gerard says:

    Fun post, fun article! Quebec recently (well, recently to me) started an official fight against American influences on Quebecois (Quebec French). It had gotten so that you could walk into a diner and order, in “french”, “un amberger, un ot doig et un Coke, s’il vous plait.” France took a while longer to crack down on behalf of her language, but did so with much greater passion.

    Pete, French isn’t hard. None of the Romance languages are. Latin is easy. English – that’s a hard language for people not born to it. Too many exceptions to the rule.

  • Susan Gerard says:

    Fun post, fun article! Quebec recently (well, recently to me) started an official fight against American influences on Quebecois (Quebec French). It had gotten so that you could walk into a diner and order, in “french”, “un amberger, un ot doig et un Coke, s’il vous plait.” France took a while longer to crack down on behalf of her language, but did so with much greater passion.

    Pete, French isn’t hard. None of the Romance languages are. Latin is easy. English – that’s a hard language for people not born to it. Too many exceptions to the rule.

  • Pat Roach says:

    This can’t stand! Germans were reliable for a) good cars, b)dance , and extending word length beyond reason.

  • Pat Roach says:

    This can’t stand! Germans were reliable for a) good cars, b)dance , and extending word length beyond reason.

  • nanbush says:

    The Welsh are not to be ignored:

    Llanfairpwllgwyngychgogerychllwyndrobwych-llantisilliogogogoch.

    It’s a place name: “The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave.” This is almost the only Welsh I remember from my Wales-born father. The German is longer, but the Welsh –hey, they’re poets.

  • Marcus says:

    This gives me a laugh, though. Although, I haven’t come across the word, although I’ve been living in this country for almost 46 years (that’s right from my birth). Actually I didn’t expect such a post on a blog about Biblical Theology.

    Would you like another Zungenbrecher, try this one:

    Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz.

    Viel Erfolg.

    Marcus

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