On the Welsh island of Anglesey, across the Menai Strait from the city of Bangor, sits Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, an unassuming old fishing village. Its 3,000 residents welcome more than 200,000 visitors every year, almost entirely on the strength of its 58-letter name. This 19-syllable jawbreaker is the longest place-name in Europe, and the longest one-word name of any municipality in the world. (Bangkok’s full name is a 167-letter tongue twister, but it’s usually divided into twenty different words.) Tourists line up to pose beside the railway station’s 20-foot sign and purchase comically elongated platform tickets—but it’s not the only town in the country with a preposterously long name. Find out why this one draws crowds.
- The name translates into English as, “The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the red cave.” All of which is a fairly accurate description of the region’s highlights.
- Sadly, the village of Llanfair PG (as locals often simplify it) doesn’t quite come by its name honestly. The town was more sensibly known as “Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll” until the 1860s, when the railroad first reached it. At that point, a local tailor concocted the longer name as a publicity stunt, in hopes of attracting tourists.
- The longer name, waggishly referred to as “the Englishman’s Cure for Lockjaw,” has become a cultural touchstone of nonbrevity. In the Telford & Wrekin News in 1979, it became the longest word ever to appear in a crossword, and it was the Internet’s longest domain name before the big meanies atwww.thelongestdomainnameintheworldandthensomeandthensomemoreandmore.comstole its thunder.
- Other towns in Wales have had less success than Llanfair PG with similar stunts. In 2004, the village of Llanfynydd decided to protest plans for a nearby wind farm by changing its name to Llanhyfrydawelllehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyllafnauole: “A quiet, beautiful village, a historic place with rare kite under threat from wretched blades.” Somehow this has failed to catch on.