Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sometimes you can’t believe your own eyes.

I thought a comment from Katherine DeChevalle on my March 12th post about city abbreviations deserved a post of its own.

That little town in Wales that Yorkshire Pudding is so fond of, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, may appear to the untrained eye to have 58 letters (I’ll wait while you count them -- go ahead, you know you want to), but in reality it has only 51, because in the Welsh alphabet -- and it is a Welsh word, after all -- ch, ng and ll count as single letters. [Editor's note. This is not a unique phenomenon in the world of alphabets. In Albanian, for example, dh, gj, nj, rr, sh, th, xh and zh all count as single letters. I am not kidding. --RWP]

On the other hand, as Katherine has kindly pointed out to us, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu (sorry, it wouldn’t fit on one line), a town in New Zealand, has 57 letters that actually count as 57 letters. Ya gotta love those Polynesians or Maoris or whatever they are.

Kate sent along a handy-dandy pronunciation guide in the form of this phonetically-spelled example:

Toe-mar-tar-far-car-tar-ngee-h­aa-ngaar-core-o-o-tar-mar-tee-­ah-poor-ky-fear-nu-ar-key-tar-­nar-tar-who

People, I may be crazy (don’t answer that), but I don’t see any R at all in the original word and Kate’s phonetic example is replete, I might even say rife, with the letter R. I can only conclude that Enzedders talk funny. (In my country, the phonetic example would probably be Toe-mah-tah-fah-cah-tah and so forth.)

Luckily for us, Kate also supplied us with a spoken example. And for all you slow learners out there, the word is spoken not once but three times.

So click here to hear New Zealand’s longest town name, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu (oops, it happened again), spoken out loud three times.

The announcers will probably never say it at the Olympics in London this summer, but it’s U.K. 0, New Zealand 1.

For those who care, Taumata etc. means “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.”


8 comments:

A Lady's Life said...

lol It sounds easier when she says it on the video.
But I'd fail spelling here. lol

rhymeswithplague said...

Hello, Lady! My brain simply does not stretch far enough to fit around such long names.

Katherine said...

Wow, a post incited by me! Kapai!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Ahem! I feel a closer kinship with New Zealand than I do with Wales (apart from Earl Gray and Lady Jenny of course) so I don't give a flying saucer about that contrived Welsh place name. Regarding the UK - that was also a contrivance but for political as well as economic ends. I don't recognise it as easily as you seem to do and the sooner we dump the whingeing Scots the better.

Shooting Parrots said...

I don't know if anyone has pointed this out, but Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a PR confection. It was invented in the 1800s so the town could claim the longest railway station name.

Its actual name, then and now, is Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll according to road signs and the Ordnance Survey. Or plain Lalnfair if you live there!

Carolina said...

And then there is Gasselterboerveenschemond (in the Netherlands).

With only 25 letters a pretty short name, but still the longest place-name in our country.

Try to pronounce Gasselterboerveenschemond. Starting with the Dutch G (as if you're trying to get rid of a small fly that you accidentally swallowed and is now stuck in your throat). And then the rest. I'm too tired (the Lyme is playing up) to phonetically explain the rest. Make of it what you want. I'm sure you'll pronounce it beautifully anyway ;-)

Katherine said...

Caroline... I couldn't get past the G...I ended up saying it like Gollum, and collapsed laughing at myself.

Rosezilla said...

Well, I know I'm a sucker for guys with big knees playing nose flutes...