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Is there any symbol [expression, figure of speech, metaphor] for something long in length in English?

for example, in Persian we say for a long word:

"the letters are set like train"

train mostly plays the role in Persian.

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Are you in need of a symbol or rather an expression? –  Alenanno May 31 '11 at 16:37
    
@Alenanno: symbol or sign of something, it could be a word or a phrase. not a particular mark. for example someone is symbol of laziness. Is it clear or I'm just imagining it? –  Gigili May 31 '11 at 16:42
    
I think you are looking for a conventional simile. I can't think of one straight away. –  Colin Fine May 31 '11 at 16:42
    
Ok ok it's clear now :) –  Alenanno May 31 '11 at 16:49
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Looking through Google, I came up with "as long as a river" and "as long as a street." Both of these are used, but neither of these is really common. –  Peter Shor May 31 '11 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You could describe a word as "sesquipedalian". The property of length is "sesquipedality".

Also "sesquipedalianism" is the habit of using long words. So:

"Charles was a past master of obfuscatory sesquipedalianism. He was so keen at confusing by the use of long words, he would never pick a less sesquipedalian synonym or pass up an opportunity to increase a sentence's sesquipedality".

I'm sorry, I may have got carried away there. Sesquipedalian is, I believe, the word which you are looking for. Its Latin root means literally "a foot and a half".

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Note that sesquipedalian is probably a word that the majority of native English speakers have never heard before. Indeed, this web site's spell checker has flagged it as a misspelled word! :) –  horatio May 31 '11 at 17:03
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@horatio: EL&U doesn't have a spellchecker, it's your browser’s. True comment nonetheless. –  F'x May 31 '11 at 17:05
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Yes, it's not a terribly common word, but it is nonetheless one of my all time favourites. Possibly because of its self-descriptive nature. Also, it sounds nice. –  Christi May 31 '11 at 17:05
    
Don't get me wrong: I like it, I only pointed it out so the OP was as informed as possible –  horatio May 31 '11 at 17:07
    
@horatio Perfectly reasonable, and I should probably have done so myself. –  Christi May 31 '11 at 17:08

It goes to the moon and back -- as a number of very long lengths/distances are compared against the distance of the earth to the moon (one time I saw Hansaplast advertised the number of plasters they've made so far as x times the distance to the moon and back).

This was probably popularized by Savage Garden who wrote a song with that title.

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I'm not sure if Persian/Farsi is a polysynthetic language or not (like German, where words are often generated by mashing up already available words), but I think there is less emphasis in English to character count and more attention to "word quality" by which I mean aspects such as language of origin, class association, educational indication, etc.

When (American) English speakers use the term "Big Words" they don't mean character count, they mean words not in the common lexicon (like saying sophomoric instead of immature, only a couple letters off, but one is way bigger to some folks).

But if a language is more poly-synthetic, I imagine word length (character count) has more significance, as it carries lots of smaller words inside it to keep track of.

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