In the course of dealing with a thousand niggling details at work this morning, an event of historic cultural importance occurred.
A friend emailed, to remind Master Right and me of a roast dinner to which we had been invited, in honour of Advent. The subject line in his email read Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerung, or Advent roast invitation reminder.
In my RSVP, I remarked how this was one of those glorious compound words, so plentiful in German, which might nudge the record as the longest.
The host reminded me, in reply, that his orginal message was an Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmail. In itself, not quite enough for a record.
But his reply landed in my spam folder. It made my heart race with linguistic excitement.
Our email became an Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmailfehler! An Advent roast invitation reminder mail failure!
Tradition acknowledges that longest naturally-occurring German word is Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, or a Danube steamship company captain. This tops out at 42 letters, 43 if you use reformed German spelling that demands a tricky triple f in the middle.
Adventsbrateneinladungserinnerungsmailfehler runs to 44.
Oh, I can hear nitpickers now. What if the Danube ships captain's assistants dealing with electrcal matters at headquarters formed a union, and it needed an office? Then it would be a Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaftsbüro. But since there is no association of electrical assistants in any steamship company operating on the Danube, they don't need an office, so this isn't actually a word.
(Hang on. I'll need to insert a hyphen so TypePad can fit that into a column. Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhaupt-betriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaftsbüro.)
And then there's the German Word of the Year 1999, Rinderkennzeichnungs-und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. It is a law on the books in the state of Mecklenberg-Pomerania, which has to do with the certification of British beef against Mad Cow Disease, and who may be delegated to inspect it.
I'd quibble that it's easy to make long words in legal or technical speheres. Think about medicine, in English. One could create a disease like Pseudometacystoblastopsychopancreatitis, and elongate it ad nauseam. But such a disease would be physically impossible to contract.
How about it, all you Deutschemuttersprachessprecher? Have we, with the help of an over-zealous copy of Lotus Notes, stumbled onto the longest naturally-occurring word in German?
EDIT: The Danube Steamship Captain has the last laugh. Those Pomeranians have repealed the beef inspection law. So the word referring to it no longer exists, officially.