Floccinaucinihilipilification: just say no

The 29-letter word in the title above means the action or habit of estimating something as worthless. (No, I didn’t make it up. The Oxford English Dictionary says so.) It became the longest word used in the Mother of Parliaments (though not the longest word in the English language) when joyously posh and learned MP Jacob Rees-Mogg used it in a speech in 2012. (It had already made its bow in the American Senate in 1999, when Jesse Helms used it about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.)

Most of us, not having been to Eton where the word was allegedly coined sometime before 1741, may not use it much. But we do it a lot, especially talking about our own creativity or that of others.

Modern society finds creativity hard to value, except in financial or fashionable terms. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, seen below in one of the rooms of her 2012 exhibition at Tate Modern, came back from America in the 1960s feeling so conflicted about her own creativity that she checked herself into a mental asylum. She still lives there, despite her work’s rocketing financial value, because it feeds and nurtures her creativity better than the world outside.


I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met at conventions and workshops and on school visits who believe that their creativity is unimportant, not worth nurturing, working or fighting for.

They usually have one or more of six reasons:

  • the thing they love to do isn’t currently fashionable or popular;
  • they think that being creative is a form of showing off;
  • they think that being creative is a childish pursuit to be left behind as part of the rite of passage into adulthood;
  • they think that their creativity is a negative reflection on their class, creed, ethnicity, gender or sexuality;
  • they think that their creativity is “not good enough”;
  • they think that their creativity will never make them any money.

Only two of these reasons are possibly true. None of them are remotely relevant.

Yes, if you are a classical Uighur musician in a world that primarily validates American bubblegum pop your audience may be limited.

Yes, claiming your creativity means admitting there is something that differentiates you from others.

Yes, being creative is staying in touch with your inner child.

Yes, being creative may take you out of your tribal comfort zone and change your view of yourself and others.

Yes, you may not yet have the technical skills to express your creativity as you wish.

Yes, you may well find that your creativity will never allow you to give up the day job.


It’s convenient if your creativity is the kind others admire, like philanthropy or astrophysics; it’s nice if it makes you lots of money, like exceptional sporting skill or acting ability. But that’s not what it’s for.

Your creativity, whatever form it takes, is the part of you that expresses your innermost dreams and ideas. If you underestimate the value of your own creativity you are marking your innermost self down as low-value. And if you think that, why should anyone argue?

That doesn’t mean every manifestation of creativity is great, or even positive. Torturers and dictators and lynch mobs can be creative. Artwork and music that expresses its creator’s soul can leave others cold. But it does mean that you should respect and value creativity in yourself and others.

Say no to floccinaucinihilipilification. Don’t floccinaucinihilipilificate.

And if you think creativity isn’t getting the respect it deserves, just drop that word casually into the conversation.


3 thoughts on “Floccinaucinihilipilification: just say no

  1. Floccinaucinihilipilification is, incidentally, one letter longer than antidisestablishmentarianism, often mistakenly cited as the longest word in the English language. Both are left behind by the 34-letter supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Having been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986, this is indisputably an English word. Its invention for a fantasy book is in no way less valid as a word origin than that of the many invented Shakespearian words that ornament the language, or indeed the Eton-invented floccinaucinihilipilification.

  2. Thank you, thank you for putting in such clear words, plus a very long and hard to pronounce (and write) one, something I’ve been thinking and feeling for such a long time! Creativity is one of my most precious possessions and I definitely don’t floccinaucinihilipilificate.

    • Pronunciation clue: the double c is a ch. The link to the Rees-Mogg video demonstrates perfect diction for this one. He really is fun and has no shame about his own creativity, or his politics. I think an unambiguous acceptance of the self is the secret of joy.

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