Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


O.K., you know I’m avoiding reading term papers. I came across this in The Adventure of English: Melvyn Bragg notes some of the many words invented by Shakespeare, and that many of them have come down to us. But, he also notes that The Poet backed some words that proved to be losers, they have not come down to us.

He writes (p. 138) that Shakespeare’s "longest word, ’honorificabilitudinatibus,’ which means ’with honour,’ has also fallen out of fashion." Not caring about fashion, I tried to find it, but couldn’t. Was Bragg wrong? Even the OED doesn’t have it--although it has "honorificabilitudinity"--

and it does make a reference to it being used by someone named Nashe in 1599. And the OED also notes this, from someone in 1801: "The two longest monosyllables in our language are strength and straight, and the very longest word, honorificabilitudinity." Thought you’d like know. For now I assume, with Isabella, Truth is truth/To th’ end of reckoning. Wait, I found it! Honorificabilitudinatibus is in Shakespeare! It is in Love’s Labour Lost, V.i.44. Is the OED wrong? (LLL was published in 1598).

Now back to the papers!

Discussions - 6 Comments

I thought the longest word was "disestablishmentarianism".

a resolution of this problem would require more mental energy than I currently have to spare, though... so I"ll leave it to someone else to actually count the letters.


woops.. I meant "antidisestablishmentarianism".

The longest name is a New Zealand hill. It is named Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu in the aboriginal language. Locals calls it "Taumata".

While it is true that the works of William Shake-speare contributed well over 10,000 neologisms to the English language, it would be a mistake to assume that such a radical transormation is attributal to only one man. This misassumption stems directly from a complete misunderstanding of who Shake-speare really was. He was not the figure many assume him to be. The "figure" we see put in the first folio is that of Guillermo Shagsper, a burgher or dealer in bagged commodities, who owned a small share of stock in the Globe Theater and happened to receive a yearly stipend from Elizabeth. There is no evidence that he ever attended any school anywhere or that he could even read and write. The six surviving "autographs" attributed to him are barely legible and are all spelled differently. In other words, the evidence we have suggests he could barely print and could not spell. Only a fool would believe that this clown composed the greatest works of English literature. Ben Johnson certainly didn’t, as a close reading of his prefatory poem for the first folio clearly indicates--the "figure" of Shagsper we "see here put / It was for gentle Shakespeare cut." The use of the term "gentle" is significant, as it connotes the peerage, to which Shagsper, a commoner, did not belong. Obviously, he was a foil, a deliberate distraction from the identity of the true poet, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Since it was forbidden for a noble to publish his writing, much less sell it, until ten years after his death, de Vere had to set up a foil in order to publish his poems and plays. It must be understood that de Vere, as the Earl of Oxford (right hand of the crown since William the Conqueror), was under orders of the Queen. Elizabeth realized the potential of theater to not only entertain but educate the populace; she thus ordered de Vere, who was born Lord High Chamberlain (director of the acting companies), to write plays which fostered patriotism. This is why in the historical plays the kings, who historically would have been Catholic, spout Anglican propaganda. The plays were written to foster English patriotism, strengthen the Tudor dynasty and validate the Anglican church, of which Elizabeth was the Virgin Queen. Of course, other plays, the comedies and tragedies, were written for other purposes, but the point remains. The plays of Shake-speare were written for the purpose of enriching the English language and promoting English culture. It is not commonly recognized that de Vere, as Lord High Chamberlain, had an entire staff of scholars whose job it was to search Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and other written languages for new vocabulary words to add to English. These scholars were also assigned to devise new usages for words, as in for example using a noun as a verb. Doubtlessly many of the neologisms we attribute to Shake-speare derived from the work of these scholars. Thus we see that the plays of Shake-speare were really more of a collaborative effort than the work of only one man. I have no doubt that de Vere conceived, planned and outlined the plays, just as I have no doubt that he had more than a little help from the scholars and actors in writing them.

"The two longest monosyllables in our language are strength and straight..."


Honorificabilitudinatibus is not English and was never meant to be. It is the longest word in Latin, a language that Shakespeare used frequently. The longest word in English is not antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters), it is floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters), meaning the valuing of something as nothing.

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