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World’s Longest Surname
Status: Seems to be true
Charles Haberl e-mailed me with a question about the world's longest surname. Here's the main part of his message (it's kind of long):

There's an bit of internet lore circulating around that the Guinness World Record for Longest Name in the world belongs to a Mr. Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorffwelchevoralternwarengewissenschaftschafe rswessenschafewarenwohlgepflegeundsorgfaltigkeitbeschutzenvonangreifeudurch ihrraubgierigfeindewelchevoralternzwolftausendjahresvorandieerscheinenersch einenvanderersteerdemenschderraumschiffgebrauchlichtalsseinursprungvonkraft gestartseinlangefahrthinzwischensternaitigraumaufdersuchenachdiesternwelche gehabtbewohnbarplanetenkreisedrehensichundwohinderneurassevonverstandigmens chlichkeitkonntefortpflanzenundsicherfeuenanlebenslanglichfreudeundruhemitn icheinfurchtvorangreifenvonandererintelligentgeschopfsvonhinzwischenternart Zeus igraum Senior, who was born in Munich in 1904 and lived in Philadelphia for most of his life. Apparently he shortened his name to Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, and subsequently went by Hubert Blaine Wolfe, but the "Senior" indicates that he passed some form of his name to his son.

Note that misspellings are rife (the Wikipedia entry for his name is "Adolph_Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenberdorf," but within the entry he is identified as "Adolph Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorf" - neither of which are correct.

If you poke around, as I have, you'll find that the book in which this bit of information is contained is variously described as "old," "from the 70s", and even "published in 1978." The most amazing thing about this name is the translation of the content after "Wolfe Schlegel Steinhausen-Bergedorf," ("wolf" "mallet" "Steinhausen (a common placename)" and "Bergedorf (a borough of Hamburg)") which translates to

"...who before ages were conscientious shepherds whose sheep were well tended and diligently protected against attackers who by their rapacity were enemies who 12,000 years ago appeared from the stars to the humans by spaceships with light as an origin of power, started a long voyage within starlike space in search for the star which has habitable planets orbiting and whither the new race of reasonable humanity could thrive and enjoy lifelong happiness and tranquility without fear of attack from other intelligent creatures from within starlike space."

On one forum ('s AllMystery forum, in German) this is identified as "medieval German" and advanced as possible evidence for the extraterrestrial origins of mankind. I'm more inclined to view it as someone (possibly Mr. Wolfe-Schlegel Steinhausen-Bergerdorff himself)'s idea of a practical joke on the Guinness people.

My question is, does this man actually appear in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the holder of the world's longest name, or is this a bit of unsubstantiated internet trivia? Furthermore, was the text after "Bergerdorff" part of the original Guinness account, or was it subsequently added on? The Guinness website is useless in this regard (it doesn't feature any entry for "longest name") and I don't have a copy of the 1978 Guinness Book of World Records or indeed that for any other year.

Here's my answer: By a very odd coincidence, I own only one edition of the Guinness Book of Records, and it happens to be the 1978 edition. And it does indeed mention Mr. Wolfe. The entry about him states:

The longest name used by anyone is Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Senior, who was born at Bergedorf, near Hamburg, Germany, on 29 Feb. 1904. On printed forms he uses only his eighth and second Christian names and the first 35 letters of his surname. The full version of the name of 590 letters appeared in the 12th edition of The Guinness Book of Records. He now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and has shortened his surname to Mr. Wolfe + 585, Senior.

I assume that the 12th edition (which I don't own) gave the full, long version of Mr. Wolfe's name. The other part of Charles's question (was this a practical joke on the Guinness people?) is harder to answer. Mr. Wolfe's birthday (February 29, 1904) seems a bit suspicious, but 1904 was a leap year, so it could be true. For now I suppose we'll have to trust that the Guinness people did their homework and weren't the victims of a hoax.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by The Curator on Fri Oct 21, 2005
Not true, Jennifer. The whole part from Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff... on is made up by an English-speaking person. It's an English stentence translated into German by a person that doesn't speak German.

The rest with the many names (Adolph Blaine Charles David...) might be true.
Posted by Ariane  in  Germany  on  Wed May 14, 2008  at  08:56 PM
I know this bloke. He was and always will be, a cunt
Posted by Wolfgang  in  Stradelichten  on  Thu Aug 14, 2008  at  10:03 AM
correction to those who said this guy had to shorten his name to "Wolfe". He shortened it to "Wolfe+585".
Posted by Elizabeth  in  Japan  on  Sat Dec 06, 2008  at  06:53 AM
If you've ever read an Erich Von Daniken book, you're probably what people call an "Ancient Astronaut nut", as I was (and probably still am). That's where I first encountered Mr. Wolfe's inconveniently long name and its accompanying translation. I'm not sure when Von Daniken's book was published but it was probably in the mid- to late-70's. He suggests that the surname was a way to pass down information on how we supposedly colonized Earth 12,000 years ago from another planet. A living Bible, so to speak. Von Daniken has many detractors but his books are fun to read. If this intrigues you, you might also want to read some of Zechariah Sitchin's books which delve into this topic with more depth (and possibly more credibility). Enjoy!
Posted by Ferdinand A.  in  United States  on  Thu Jul 09, 2009  at  10:49 AM
I believe his name was Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, and that he, or someone else, just added the rest in an attempt to mock the fact that he already has a ridiculously long surname, like someone else already suggested. Anyone who speaks German can see that the "sentence" in the longer name makes no sense at all, and the 26 first names seem dubious, but I'm sort of willing to believe that his parents might have given him to them, though I think it's more likely that he added them later. I also believe he wasn't born in a village in Germany, at least not in 1904, it was probably several decades later in the USA. "Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff" sounds like a believable, albeit unusual, surname to me though.
Posted by J.S.  in  Netherlands  on  Sat Feb 06, 2010  at  12:44 AM
How do you pronounce that name???? Is there any link that tells you how it sounds????
Posted by Amit Kumar Ramkissoon  in  Trinidad And Tobago  on  Sat May 15, 2010  at  09:42 PM
Big Gary, I totally agree with you. However, you overlooked a word that pretty much has the same definition as "antidisestablishmentarianism" but is still even longer. That is "antidisestablishmentarianistically." 6 letters and a couple syllables longer to be more specific. Than there's even "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which has just as many letters as "antidisestabliahmentarianistacally" and one more syllable to boot. Now, if we were to add another anti there, lol, it really does get tough trying to pick the longest word in the English language, doesn't it?

There are other words in the English language that are even longer than those. Don't forget about "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," which is found in a few English dictionaries, especially some medical ones. Ooh, the words we can muster, right?
Posted by etirvan  in  United States  on  Sat Jun 02, 2012  at  08:40 PM
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