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 (allsearch.de'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.

Literature/Language

Posted on Thu Oct 20, 2005



Comments

Whatever happened to Mr F'tang F'tang Ole Biscuitbarrel??
Posted by Nigel Pond  on  Fri Nov 11, 2005  at  08:46 AM
I researched this story and discovered it originated with an AP press release from June 25th 1964. It can be found in several North American newspapers printed that week.

The story was written by Norman Goldstein and originally titled "What's in A Name? 666 Letters."

Hubert was a 47 year old linotype operator, married with two children. In the article, the result of an interview, he said that he liked to be unique, not "part of the common herd," and for this reason used a strange surname. He was not himself a German citizen but was of "German descent," hence his many English first names and the incorrect German grammar used in the surname.

The article makes no reference to the age of the name. Hubert did not claim it was Medieval. In fact, it is obviously a 20th century creation because part of it runs "tungsteinundsiebeniridiumelektrischmotors" - which roughly translates as "tungsten and seven iridium motors," the propulsion engine of the alleged spacecraft!

So, we are left with a story about an eccentric man of German descent who chooses to use an unwieldy name of his own invention, or at least tells a reporter that he does.

I'll be writing up the full story at my webpage, so please check there from time to time to see if it's available.

http://anomalies.bravepages.com/

Best wishes,

Chris Aubeck
Posted by Chris Aubeck  in  Madrid, Spain  on  Thu Feb 23, 2006  at  01:25 PM
Well, I'm a German and I have to tell you that this is a great hoax. Even if this name really made it into the Record-Book, the name is fake.

It's all about starships and strange creatures on planets (aliens) - and I don't think these were topics up to date in 1904. And even in German the sentence makes no sense. It sounds like an englishspeaking picking German words out of an dictionary.
Posted by yetused  on  Tue Mar 14, 2006  at  09:40 PM
In response to the reader who couldn't find the correct name on Wikipedia: I have an entry in which you can find another version of this person's name. The link is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfe+585,_Senior

I merely repeat this information without additional comments. Then again, the name just doesn't look real to me, except maybe the 35-letter version.
Posted by Desmond Hobson  in  Lakewood, CA  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  11:53 AM
It also reminds me of Monty Python's election night sketch. Sounds like he could be a candidate for the Silly Party.
Posted by SC  in  Los Angeles, CA  on  Fri Mar 09, 2007  at  01:45 PM
I actually had the misfortune of having this name burned into my brain as a memory excercise when I was bored at the local library as a child. It was indeed in the Guiness Record Book circa 1978. My memory's still pretty good for the full name, and there is always a mistake or two from the version I remember in the different versions I've seen on the web, but for the most part the spellings are close to the original source. I remember being annoyed at the time that there were 591 characters in the Guiness reference that I memorized, not 590 as promised. That made me feel like it was useless to memorize it if it had a typo... lol. What can I say, I had no life.

It was fun, but I didn't take German til years later so he pronunciation I use in my head to remember it is decidedly un-German, and I didn't know the space-alien translation. I think that's hilarious.

Good for him pulling one over on Guiness.

The multiple -stein-hausen-berger-dorff senseless endings remind me of Keven Kline's Man-fred-jen-sen character from Fish Called Wanda.
Posted by Mike  in  Tampa  on  Wed Mar 21, 2007  at  09:38 AM
It doesn't take much German language knowledge to realize that this name has no authentic German origin. Transcription errors notwithstanding, at one point, the name says "mit nicht[t]" in place of "without". This is roughly equivalent to saying "together not", instead of using the proper German word, "ohne". Any second- or third-year high school German student would be familiar with the proper construction.

Of course, this only proves that the name did not originate from a native German speaker. Whether Mr. Zeus actually gave himself that name or not remains to be proven.
Posted by Jason Crandall  in  Portland  on  Tue Jul 10, 2007  at  12:16 AM
well i haven't read all the other responces because my eyes started to hurt(also why im having issues typing) but the "antiantiantidisestablishmentarianism" can not be a word in the english lauguage because words are not aloud to have more than 3 prefexes. that word has 4. therefore it is not a real english word.
if anyone else has already said that. sorry.
Posted by RJfingrl  in  Libertyville, Illinois  on  Tue Dec 11, 2007  at  06:02 PM
Does anyone have a pronouncation8-/ ??

Thanks
Posted by Areese110795  in  Pennsylvania  on  Fri Jan 04, 2008  at  05:03 PM
I realize this site was posted in 05 but I am just now reading it. The name is true. I happen to know of some descendants of his. They live in a German community here in Texas. The name has been shorten to Wolfenbarger since the other is so long.
Posted by Jennifer  in  Texas  on  Wed May 14, 2008  at  05:00 PM
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  06:56 PM
I know this bloke. He was and always will be, a cunt
Posted by Wolfgang  in  Stradelichten  on  Thu Aug 14, 2008  at  08:03 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  04:53 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  08:49 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  Fri Feb 05, 2010  at  10:44 PM
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  07:42 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  06:40 PM
Comments: Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.