Floccinaucinihilipilification is sometimes said to be the longest word in the English language. At 29 letters, it beats antidisestablishmentarianism, though there are some longer concoctions in medical dictionaries, and the third paragraph of Finnegan's Wake, by James Joyce, has a made-up word of 100 letters.
Be that as it may, floccinaucinihilipilification is by a wide margin the longest in the printed version of Hansard that went on sale last week. There is only one MP eccentric and learned enough to use it, namely Jacob Rees-Mogg, the idiosyncratic old Etonian who represents North East Somerset, and looks and speaks as if he has stepped from the pages of a PG Wodehouse novel.
Pupils of the old school where Rees-Mogg, David Cameron and Boris Johnson received their education are credited with coining the word floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning the act of defining something as unimportant, from the Latin floccus – a wisp, naucum – a trifle, nihil – nothing, and pilus – a single hair, or trifle.
Intervening in a Commons debate on the British Government's dispute with a European Court over a pay award for EU staff, Mr Rees-Mogg accused the judges of breaching the age old principle of nemo iudex in causa sua – Latin for "no one should be the judge in their own cause". He added: "Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges and quote from the book of Amos about them: 'For we know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right'."