Originally Published: August 2, 2005 9:16 a.m.
Last Tuesday, at the suggestion of a Cordes Junction fellow, Bill Pearson, I issued the challenge for readers to put together the longest sentence they could come up with using only two-letter words.
Pearson teased it with a 16-worder, to wit: “Ma, is Pa to go to Oz on an el, or is he up to it?” (Not bad. Not bad at all. And if you don’t know what “el” is, then you’ve never been to Chicago.)
Well, I heard from Millie Kellerman of Prescott Valley, who topped Pearson – but just barely – with this 17-worder: “To my ma it is up to my pa or me to do it or we go.”
Then there was Larry Bickford of Prescott, who may very well have stepped over The Line in his 28-word contribution by using a batch of proper names. Anyway, Larry went on and on with: “Ah so, on an el do we go by an ad, my ma, my pa, my ex, Al, Bo, Cy, Ed, Hy, Jo, Mo or Ty, or no?” (A colleague says this is very much “jive talk” and I would have to agree.)
But Melissa Tenney of Prescott topped ’em all by coining this 32-worder: “If we do it to Ma, do we do it to Pa as if he is me, or is it up to me to do it as if he is an ox?”
Congrats, Melissa. If there were a prize for the winning entry it would be yours!
Switching back from short to long words, I had the unmitigated gall (the worst kind of gall, seems like) to suggest that antidisestablishmentarianism is a non-word because it’s not listed in my Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Well, it’s a cheap dictionary, because I heard from several readers who confirmed that it’s in their
dictionaries. (I also own a cheap radio, and you can’t believe hardly anything you hear on it.)
For example, Nel Welker of Prescott quoted chapter and verse by citing page 524 of Volume I of the second edition of his Oxford English Dictionary, then mused that “your readers are correct and it is most certainly not a non-word unless one excludes England as a source of English words.”
And Prescott’s Don DeWitt wrote to say that “I can’t believe you use the Collegiate Dictionary as your final authority. It is for students.” But as fate would have it, the word in question is in the Random House Collegiate version of the dictionary belonging to Prescott Valley’s Marilyn McKeown, who chided me with: “maybe you will tell me it’s a ‘non-dictionary,’ since it has ‘non-words’ in it!”
So do I trust a Collegiate Dictionary in the future? I’m so confused!
Oh, well, leave it to Ron Woerner of Prescott to make a piker out of that little ol’ 28-letter “antidis… etc.”) His longest word, gleaned from a Web site collection of word oddities and trivia, contains 45 letters! Ready? It’s pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, and it’s “a lung disease caused by breathing in certain particles.”
(Hey, I think I just caught the disease trying to type it in. Hope it’s not terminal.)
Contact the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org