5
$\begingroup$

This is a simple puzzle about English words.

Which English word has the largest number of eɪ sounds in it? The phonetic sound /eɪ/ is the same as the letter "A" or the "ay" in day or the "eigh" in "eight".

To make it more like a competition, if two people get the same number of /eɪ/ sounds, the winner is the one with largest number of different spellings for the sound in the word. If people tie on that then it is longer word. If that is equal too it is the first answer.

If there is a dispute about pronunciation and what is a proper word, I will take whatever the OED says as gospel.


I have already been made to tighten the rules thanks to a clever answer by rand al'thor. No hyphens or spaces are allowed.

Winning word so far

  • mainstaysails
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Are the words allowed to have any other vowel sounds in them (e.g. potato) or only eɪ? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor Yes. But you may fall foul of one of the tie-breaking rules. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 15 '16 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Great-great-grandmother isn't in the OED? Great-great-grandfather is mentioned as a valid English word in the online Oxford dictionary. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor They are valid words just not according to my definition. I have now just banned hyphens as its much cleaner. Curiously great-great-grandfather is in the OED. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 15 '16 at 18:41
7
$\begingroup$

Three

mainstaysails

This is a word, and the OP has confirmed that it appears in the OED.

There are many examples with two, including:

waylay, Mayday, eighty-eight, maintain, gateway, mainstay, failsafe, gainsay, staysail, straightaway, railway, staysail, ratepayers, ...

If we were allowed to use hyphens, we could use these to construct words with four:

gateway-maintainers, railway-ratepayers, ...

Arbitrarily many (now disallowed)

great-great-great-great-great-great-...-great-great-grandmother

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ @Lembik :-> $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mind if I ban this? I mean it's clever but wasn't quite the point. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 15 '16 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Seriously though, I do think this is a valid answer. As far as I know, there's no maximum $n$ such that ($n$ greats)-grandmother is no longer a valid word. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 18:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ While technically you can say great-great... any times, after like a few thousands (?) iterations, or so, you will run out of people to point at, as you get closer and closer to Eve (as in Adam and Eve in paradise). $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Oct 15 '16 at 18:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mainstaysail(s) is arguably good, but it does require including non-primary pronunciations: the most common pronunciation of mainstaysail(s) (which still isn’t really ‘common’ at all) is /ˈmeɪnsteɪsəl(s)/, with the final diphthong reduced to a schwa, similar to studdingsail /ˈstʌnsəl/ and topsail /ˈtɒpsəl/. I’ve also heard it pronounced /ˈmεnstəl/, but I’m pretty sure that’s a definitely non-standard pronunciation. $\endgroup$ – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 16 '16 at 13:38
4
$\begingroup$

Heres a few for two:

Payday, breakaway, cableway, fadeaway, gainsay, graymail, haymaker, mayonnaise, playdate

But I think I found the winner:

It is 189'819 letters long, takes 3 hours to pronounce and is the real word for the protein 'titin'. I'm not going to bother counting the 'ay' sounds in it.

It is too long to post here as the limit is 30'000 letters but here is a link to it.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I already found a whole bunch for two :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor i'm looking for a 3 but can't find one $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Oct 15 '16 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ I particularly like your ones with different spellings like mayonnaise. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 15 '16 at 18:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, that's the trouble with questions like this: they can often be 'won' by some massively long-arsed word for some chemical thing that almost nobody's ever heard of. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 15 '16 at 19:32
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This word consists entirely of the following units: acetyl, alanyl, arginyl, asparaginyl, aspartyl, cysteinyl, ethionyl, glutaminyl, glutamyl, glycyl, histidyl, isoleucyl, leucyl, lysyl, methionyl, phenyl, prolyl, serxisoleucine, seryl, threonyl, titinmethionyl, tryptophyl, tyrosyl and valyl. None of these contains an /eɪ/ sound, so this word actually scores zero :-) $\endgroup$ – squeamish ossifrage Oct 16 '16 at 9:01
2
$\begingroup$

Shortest 2-eɪ words?

nene   neɪ-neɪ
epee   eɪ-peɪ   (not primary pronunciation)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I like nene as an example. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 16 '16 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ Scientists are still searching for a 2-eɪ word with only one vowel. For pure per-letter potency, @Lembik, hard to imagine anything more efficient than your original "a." $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 16 '16 at 21:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "aye aye" is almost a word as in "Aye, aye, what have we here?" $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 16 '16 at 21:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Aye, indeed, and Finnish does have "hei hei" $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 16 '16 at 21:11
0
$\begingroup$

Hm. So I suppose that

Eight million eight hundred and eighty-eight thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight point eight eight (8,888,888.88)

would not be accepted, huh?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe add billion and trillion to it $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 16 '16 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ Seems to have spaces. $\endgroup$ – Lembik Oct 16 '16 at 15:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.