Expressing the Inexpressible in German
It's common in German to see one word that expresses something that might take five or ten words in English. Some examples are:
Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän = captain of the society for Donau (river) navigation
Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachung = monitoring of beef labeling
Telekommunikationsüberwachungsverordnung = telecommunication surveillance provision.
Here's a proposal for adding a few more words to the German language:
They're all compound words consisting of several constituent words. Quite often, you'll find that the English translation (usually a phrase rather than a compound word) is almost or just as long as the German word. In some cases, the English translation may even be longer as you need to add prepositions and articles.
Does anyone remember the punch line to an old joke about German engineers? They wanted to make the world's most efficient farm animal, and it took ten years but they finally brought to market "der Eierlegenwollelnwachsenspeckmachennutztiere," which was supposed to combine the best features of the chicken, sheep and pig. Somehow everything went kaput but I don't remember exactly how. Maybe most of the joke is in the name!
The term eierlegende Wollmilchsau (or Eier legende Wollmilchsau), a feminine noun because of the Sau, colloquially refers to an all-purpose object or solution, combining many advantages without having any disadvantages.
It even has its own Wikipedia page: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eierlegende_Wollmilchsau