Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Book News: Germany's Longest Word Gets The Ax

Cuts of beef and pork lie in a display counter at a supermarket in Berlin, Germany.
Sean Gallup
Getty Images
Cuts of beef and pork lie in a display counter at a supermarket in Berlin, Germany.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Until recently, the German language's longest "authentic" word was the 63-letter Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, meaning "the law for the delegation of monitoring beef labeling," according to The Telegraph. But the law was recently repealed, leaving Germans with no reason to use it (except perhaps to lament the loss of the word Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz). Although it appeared in government documents, it hadn't made its way into the Duden German dictionary, where the reigning champion is the measly 36-letter word Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung, or "motor vehicle liability insurance." And the Telegraph notes that "a 39-letter word, Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften, insurance companies providing legal protection, is considered the longest German word in everyday use by the Guinness Book of World Records."
  • The 25th annual Lambda Literary Awards (or "Lammys"), for "excellence in LGBT literature" were awarded Monday night in New York. Winners included John Irving, who won the Bridge Builder Award for being an "ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," as well as the bisexual fiction prize for his novel In One Person. Jeanette Winterson won the lesbian memoir category with Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Augusten Burroughs won a special Award for Excellence in Literature. The Wall Street Journal notes that the prize was given by The New York Times' Frank Bruni, who said of Burroughs, "He's not just a talented man, he's a freakishly talented one."
  • The Onion publishes an "op-ed" from Joyce Carol Oates with advice on becoming a famous author: "Success in writing takes serious commitment and a willingness to devote thousands of hours to the craft of having sex with key publishing professionals." (As you might have guessed, the article contains strong language.)
  • Jonah Lehrer, the disgraced journalist and author who was nabbed for fabricating quotes and other transgressions, is reportedly shopping a book about the science of love. Slate cites "sources in the publishing industry" for the tip.
  • For The Rumpus, Alec Michod interviews Colum McCann about writing: "It all feels like one big, long, complicated failure. Until it doesn't."
  • The Japan Times reports that two Japanese men were arrested for allegedly using an illegal smartphone app to steal about $2,000 worth of ebooks.
  • Brain Pickings' Maria Popova unearthed a 1947 recording of T.S. Eliot reading his poem "The Ad-dressing of Cats": "I bow, and taking off my hat, / Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!" (Incidentally, the book of poems in which it was published, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, went on to inspire the Broadway musical CATS.)
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.