Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Stuff of Scrabble Champions - Long Dutch Words

Some Dutch words are so long they look like they have been made up to confuse the average foreigner. In fact, some are so long they most probably confuse the average nederlander too. Here are some examples:

arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering (33 letters)- unemployment insurance

medewerkerstevredenheidsonderzoek (33 letters)- employee satisfaction survey

meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornis (35 letters) - multiple personality syndrome

The Dutch language allows the endless stringing of words to create new ones, instead of using separate words as the English language does. To take one of the examples above - arbeid (work), ongeschiktheid (unfit) and verzekering (insurance). Put it all together and what do you get? Arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering.

In January this year, a game show (Lingo) broadcast on TV channel Nederland 1 requested viewers to send in long words to them in a quest to find the longest Dutch word. The winner was kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedencomitéleden. In English, this is a member on the commitee for the preparation of the children's carnaval procession. No way could we get that into one word in the English language.

Whilst officially this is not the longest word in the Dutch language (as words can be endlessly put together to form new ones) it was picked as the longest that still had a proper meaning (Dutch logic I think).

Van Dale, the Dutch dictionary, lists zandzeepsodemineraalwatersteenstralen (37 letters) as the longest Dutch word. In its shorter Dutch version, it means opsodemieteren - in English, this translates to go away or get lost. However, this long word is not a word that rolls regularly from the lips of the natives.

On one site, I found the following word, and after checking with my Dutch partner whether such a word can really be used, I was assured it could in theory. However, most people would just say fruit tart instead.

Appelbanaanperenaardbeienframbozengrapefuitdruivenbramensinaasappelgranaatappel-mandarijncitroenroomgebakje - a tart with apple, banana, pear, strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, grape, blackberry, orange, pomegranate, mandarin, lemon and cream. I am not even going to bother counting how many letters that is.......

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