Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

[noo-muh-noh-uhl-truh-mahy-kruh-skop-ik-sil-i-koh-vol-key-noh-koh-nee-oh-sis, nyoo-]
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (also spelled -koniosis) is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "a factitious word alleged to mean 'a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust causing inflammation in the lungs. Occurring chiefly as an instance of a very long word.. It was coined to serve as the longest English word and is the longest word ever to appear in an English language dictionary. It is listed in the current edition of several dictionaries. A condition meeting the word's definition is normally called silicosis.

Disease

The disease is classified into four types. Of asymptomatic, acute, accelerated and chronic, the chronic form is the most common. It develops only after years of exposure to low levels of silica dust.

After inhalation, the dust embeds itself in the lungs' alveolar sacs. In response, white blood cells release cytokines, stimulating fibroblasts and resulting in fibrosis.

Symptoms include hyperventilation, coughing, dysphonia, anorexia, chest pain and increased susceptibility to tuberculosis.

No cure for the disease is known. Treatments include reducing exposure to particulates, chest physiotherapy, cough suppressants, antibiotics, antitubercular agents, and lung transplantation.

Coinage

The word was invented in 1935 by Everett M. Smith, president of the National Puzzlers' League, at its annual meeting. The word figured in the headline for an article published by the New York Herald Tribune on February 23, 1935 titled "Puzzlers Open 103d Session Here by Recognizing 45-Letter Word":

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis succeeded electrophotomicrographically as the longest word in the English language recognized by the National Puzzlers' League at the opening session of the organization's 103d semi-annual meeting held yesterday at the Hotel New Yorker. The puzzlers explained that the forty-five-letter word is the name of a special form of silicosis caused by ultra-microscopic particles of silica volcanic dust...

Subsequently, the word was used in a puzzle book, Bedside Manna, after which members of the NPL campaigned to have it included in major dictionaries.

This 45-letter word, referred to as P45, first appeared in the 1939 supplement to the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary, Second Edition.

Cultural references to pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

  • In a 1965 episode of I've Got a Secret, Buddy Hackett unrolls a banner with the word on it and has the panel try to pronounce it.
  • An episode of The Simpsons called Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy has Abraham Simpson successfully pronouncing the word when asking Homer what Marge's problem was.
  • In a cartoon episode of Rocket Power, a character named Twister, who is extremely dim-witted, successfully spells the word on his spelling test.
  • Floccinaucinihilipilification, the second of Irish composer David Flynn's "Two Nonsense Songs," ends with the word sung in a mock operatic cadenza style.
  • "High School Musical 2: Whats What Edition" refers to this as the longest word, as opposed to 'promise,' which is only a medium-sized word.
  • In the 2006 movie Beerfest, the scientist "Fink" utters the word very quickly to his labmates.

See also

Notes

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