Europe

Germany drops longest word after EU law change

Cow (file image)
Image caption The 63-letter word was created amid the BSE crisis

The German language has lost its longest word thanks to a change in the law to conform with EU regulations.

Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz - meaning "law delegating beef label monitoring" - was introduced in 1999 in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

It was repealed following changes to EU regulations on the testing of cattle.

German is famous - or notorious - for making compound words, often to describe something legal or scientific.

They are known in Germany as "tapeworm" words.

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Media captionSebastian Borger pronounces the word for BBC Radio 4

The 63-letter word came into being as a result of efforts to combat BSE, or "mad cow disease" and was given the abbreviation RkReUAUG - itself something of a tongue-twister.

But with the EU calling a halt to the testing of healthy cattle at abattoirs, the need for the word vanished.

The search is now on for the language's new longest word, German media reported.

Among the contenders is said to be Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe, meaning the "widow of a Danube steamboat company captain".

However, experts say such long words are so rarely used they are unlikely to make it into the standard German-language dictionary.

The longest word to be found in the dictionary is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung, meaning "automobile liability insurance".