Can you say sesquipedality?


By Jordan Janis, Features Editor

Day: a 24-hour period between one night and the next.

However, October 16 is more than just a “day;” it is Dictionary Day, Noah Webster’s birthday.  Although Congressional records and Presidential proclamations do not establish it as a national holiday, Dictionary Day was created in honor of Webster, the author of the first American dictionary.

Webster, born in 1758, was a strong supporter of the Constitutional Convention and American cultural independence, including developing a unique language and idiom.   He created the first American dictionary in 1806, and published his most important work, An American Dictionary of the English Language, containing 70,000 entries, in 1828.  Webster also invented words and phonetically simplified the spellings of many words, such as changing “musick” to “music” and “plough” to “plow.”

In honor of Dictionary Day, the Observer investigated some words with complicated pronunciations.  Can you pronounce them all correctly?

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (n): fear of long words

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (n): lung disease caused by inhaling very small particles

Floccinaucinihilipilification (n): estimation of something as worthless

Sesquipedality (n): using long words

Here are the approximate pronunciations:

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Hip-oh-paht-oh-mahn-stroh-sehs-kwip-uh-day-lee-oh-foh-bee-uh

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis: new-mno-ultra-micro-scopics-silly-coe-volcano-cone-ee-o-sis

Floccinaucinihilipilification: flok-suh-naw-suh-nahy-hil-uh-pil-uh-fi-key-shuh

Sesquipedality: ses-kwi-pi-dal -i-tee