January 08, 2014

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - by Glynis Belec

Genesis 11:1
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.

  So do you have it? Are you hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobic? I used to be that way until I armed myself with my trusty thesaurus and my dependable dictionary . Now the fear has settled nicely into cope-ability and intense fascination, thanks to my trusty ebony resource books with the gilt lettering.

     Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - fear of big words.


This favourite word of mine is longer than the meaning. When I do a presentation at schools or libraries, I often will use this word to 'attract and hold’ the attention of fidgety five year olds. For some reason, children like arming themselves with a big word or two and then trying it out on teachers or parents or big brothers and sisters.

    Amazing what words are to be found at our fingertips. The thesaurus/dictionary duo can be a perfect friend for word-smiths of any ilk - students, writers, readers...

     Seriously, I love my thesaurus. In fact I love my Roget's Thesaurus so much that I have worn off some of the gold lettering and the spine has come loose. (This is starting to sound a little like the Velveteen Rabbit story.)

     I could never have made it through 26 or so years of writing without my good old writerly companions. I will, when I am in a hurry, use the thesaurus or dictionary in the Word program. They are helpful to a point. Then the same online resources are a mere click away and they can be helpful, too, but as a distractable soul such as me is wont to do, I get side-tracked and before I know it I have clicked link after link and soon find myself  wandering recklessly down online rabbit holes.

     There is something warm and cozy; comforting and calming about my good old dictionary and thesaurus pair.  Sometimes I will just read parts of them and stories begin to form. I get so fascinated with the way words can mean so many things. Much to the chagrin of some of my students, I love playing with words and using the thesaurus and dictionary to try to help them overcome being hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobic.

     When you think about it – a mere 26 letters make up so many words. And the combinations of these words are endless. I tried to look up actually how many words there are in the English language but didn't really find a definitive answer. There are variations of words, then plurals or homonyms or scientific terms, dialect, abbreviations, obsolete words and so on that might or might not make it into the dictionaries. From what I can see from some of the dictionary sites I checked out, the best guestimate on that would be somewhere around three quarters of a million words.. 

    As I have discovered over the years words are not to be feared. I've learned to dig out the resources and remember the power of the written word. Words are magnificent and I am grateful that God blessed us with 26 of them. 

May you and I dare to use magnificent words (big or otherwise) as we string them together for amazing purposes. 

Words...Another reason why God is awesome.  


  1. I think that's the first time I've seen that word (or heard it) in my entire life! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a coincidence! My students were doing a research report recently on various phobias and this word came up! I was delighted to see it here and actually know what it meant.

  3. Your post put a smile on my face. When I saw the word, I knew it was some type of phobia, but I appreciated your explanation. I like your idea of teaching it to young kids :)

  4. Tough to get your tongue around that one, Glynis, but thanks for explaining it and reminding us to use our own combinations of words for God's purposes.

  5. Language, like music, is such a gift. I often think of Adam naming those animals. Where did he get all those names from? How intelligent he was! God in His goodness allowed Adam to use language in the creative way He wanted to in order to assign names. He gives us the same creative freedom with the 26 letters. We are co-creators with Christ and that is mind-blowing!

  6. My ten-year- old granddaughter is just discovering a love of long words. I sent her the longest place name in Wales, but it's not as long as your word. Exciting to see a youngster having fun with words. Who knows what her future holds?

  7. Thanks, sweet friends. Don't you just love the miracle of words? What a blessed responsibility we have as writers. Carol, there is a town in Wales that has a name that is well over 36 letters. My mom (bless her heart) was able to pronounce it with her lovely Welsh accent.
    Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch . :)

  8. What a great post, Glynis.

    In your discussion of long words, I cannot not mention my own favourite, which comes from the classic Mary Poppins movie:


    And yes, Glynis, I do love the miracle of words. Ever since I can remember I loved the sound and feel of words, writing them, forming certain favourites and letting them swirl around my tongue. Lovely.

    And then there's the wondrous Word who become flesh. I'm so thankful for those of us who love that Word best.

  9. Oh that comment about the wondrous Word! Love it, Brenda! Thanks for that!


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