In the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee, which decides on India’s monetary policy, released on Wednesday, one of the government-nominated members, Chetan Ghate, is quoted as stating: “Estimates of economic growth in India have unfortunately been subject to a fair degree of floccinaucinihilipilification. Notwithstanding this, growth is likely to pick up from Q2-Q3: 2019-2020”. The minutes pertained to the third bi-monthly monetary policy review that was announced on August 7.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ as “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless”. It is evident that Ghate used the word to characterise the efforts of several economists who have raised doubts about the validity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) estimates.
Earlier this year, the debate about the correctness of India’s GDP estimates received fresh impetus when Arvind Subramanian, country’s chief economic adviser during the time — early 2015 — when news GDP estimates were released, openly questioned the estimates. Subramanian went on to say that existing GDP growth rates overestimate growth by as much as 2.5 percentage points.
Ghate is not the first to use ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in recent times. The 29-letter word got widespread publicity in October 2018 when Congress leader Shashi Tharoor mentioned it in a tweet promoting his book on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Tharoor had tweeted: “My new book, THE PARADOXICAL PRIME MINISTER, is more than just a 400-page exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification”.
The word has Latin roots — flocci, nauci, nihili, pili — all of which mean “at little value”.
Despite its length, ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ is not among the longest words in the English language. According to Grammarly, that odd distinction goes to the 45-letter word ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’, which is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica or quartz dust.