Eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious — the longest weirdest word in English

commissioned by Wrunter in 2016.

English is known to have many long and incredibly strange words. Some of them come from the older times, some of them are just some obsolete terms, others are merely an elaborate pranks, that ran its course. And then there are some which origin are incredibly obscure and tangled with thin veil of ridiculous mystery which is much more interesting than the boring truth that is better to be left behind.

The word “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” is one of the latter. It is a favorite among the fans of obscure and weird words — mainly because it is so long and so hard to pronounce. The funniest thing about it is that it doesn’t mean anything cryptic or downright mystical. It is merely a synonym of one relatively well-known concept represented by adjective “good”. It’s just a 30 letters long “good”. Spelling it can be considered a form of performance art. Seriously, try it. Worth a try or two. And yet — there’s something irresistibly charming about it.

“Eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” (spelled eellogo-fusciou-hipoppo-kun-urious) is not presented in any of the standard dictionaries. Even Oxford English Dictionary (Mastodon Leviathan of a dictionary that has words of all walks of life and even more) doesn’t have it. It first surfaced on Internet on the site of obscure words “The Phronstistery” over two decades ago and since it has been presented as an elaborate but obscure relic of linguistic gutta-percha.

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While it looks like a magic spell without an instruction and sounds like something that could appear in the songs for Mary Poppins written by Sherman brothers (“supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, et al) — it is a little bit more complicated. For some time, it was considered to be a “nonce word” — the one that was made-up for a one-off communicative purpose without means to be used anymore in any meaningful way, not mentioning being accepted or standardized in any form. Most of the nonce words are never repeated and remain artifacts of an exclusive instance. But most of the nonce word doesn’t sound that alien and familiar in the same time and they don’t look like they pose a considerable threat to your verbal apparatus.

What is the secret behind “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious”? Why it exists? It has simpler and much more common synonym and is notoriously hard to pronounce without proper training. It is not casually used. The only field in which it is still brought up — are discussions about longest words in English language (as a side remark, it is also a title of my Xerolage issue, thought you might be interested). It’s a glorious remnant of something lost and left behind long ago…

But who cares about that! It sounds like a short musical composition and looks like a poem in an unknown language.

As for me — it is one hell of an interesting word to think about. The more I think about it — the more I like it.

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There are two things that it reminds me.

First — sigils. Magical symbols used in various rituals. Sigils are spells that were partially stripped of its meaning by reduction to an abstraction — thus gaining some kind of mystic power. According to the most prominent practitioner of this technique Austin Osman Spare — if done right sigils can bring the commands deep into the subconsciousness and execute them with extreme prejudice. To make sigil one should eliminate all rational parts of the phrase and defamiliarize it to the point of complete loss of recognition.

Sigils can also provide seedy subtext by callous overthinking it to the point of pareidolia with a severe case of apophenia. Which brings us to the second suspect.

The other thing that “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” reminds me of is pwoermd. It is a type of poetry that uses a combination, mash-up of several words that together make a word that can be considered a poem because it uses aesthetic qualities of the words and combines them to forge a new meanings or images. Pwoermd makes the words abstract, it defamiliarizes them, separates from their natural habitat. It goes deep down within the realms of words, where nothing is what it seems. Pwoermd brings to the forth the way the words sound and look, you can almost feel its taste and smell. According to Geof Huth “pwoermd” is “a spark to make imagination move”.

And that is most definitely what “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” means to me.

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What is the origin of “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious”?

According to the “Phronstistery” compiler Stephen Chrisomalis- he took it from the “Slang Teasers Dictionary Volume 2”. Slang Teasers is a variation on a Balderdash which is game of erudite bluffing where players draw definition cards, roll dice and decide what word will be used. Then players try to deduce or make-up a proper (or even correct) definition for the word. It usually slides off into the land of the nonce words — up to the point when the result might make Kurt Schwitters proud.

“Slang Teasers Dictionary Volume 2” was published in Canada in the mid-80s. In it “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” is defined as “very good / very fine”. Supposedly, the word was taken from Maurice Weseen’s “Dictionary of American Slang”. In it “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” is also defined as “very good / very fine” and is left without further comments regarding its origin or terms of use.

According to a research that can be found on a “Glossolalia” website — Maurice Weseen most probably took the word from an article by Louise Pound “Word List from Nebraska”. There it is cited to be submitted by a contributor from Oregon. It was presumably used by youth as a part of some sort of secret language or society-specific slang in the beginning of XX century.

Connections to the other words were pointed in the research. “Flippercanorious” and it synonym “hypoppercanorious”, which sound suspiciously similar to “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious”. “Flippercanorious” means “grand / elegant” and was cited to be used both in Oregon and Massachusetts and “hypoppercanorious” sounds much like “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” without “eellogo-”, which might mean an intensification bit “very”.

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Cue to Kraftwerk’ “It’s more fun to compute”.

With all being said — “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” is a fun and cool word that deserves a better recognition and wider use. It has everything the great word must have — it retains a powerful imagery, it evokes thoughts, it sounds special, it takes an effort to spell after all. Start using “eellogofusciouhipoppokunurious” right now.