Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Chrononhotonthologos

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Chrononhotonthologos

Article excerpt

When I ran out of space last week, I was about to mention the way in which some people relish long names. It may be childish but they enjoy it. In Dorothy L. Sayers's detective world, characters unashamedly cap obscure quotations and references. There is an exchange in Murder Must Advertise between an ad man and Lord Peter Wimsey:

'Anyway how do you spell Chrononhotonthologos?'

'Oh! I can do that. And Aldiborontophoscophornio too.'

The funny thing there is that, in the edition I picked up, published by Hodder in 1983, the latter name is spelled wrongly. It should be Aldiborontiphoscophornio. He was a character in Henry Carey's quite funny play of 1734, Chrononhotonthologos , the first two lines of which are 'Aldiborontiphoscophornio!/ Where left you Chrononhotonthologos?'

Carey, when he wanted, could turn out lyrics in a plain style. Nothing could be simpler than his song 'Sally in Our Alley': 'Of all the Girls that are so smart/ There's none like pretty Sally,/ She is the Darling of my Heart,/ And she lives in our Alley.'

No doubt when beginning Chrononhotonthologos , Carey was aware of the line in The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great by Henry Fielding , staged three years earlier: 'Oh! …

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