Heyl & Patterson Blog

What's in a Word? Heyl & Patterson's Quasquicentennial

Posted by H&P Blog on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 @ 11:25 AM

H&P 125th LogoIn August 1961, encyclopedia publisher Funk & Wagnalls received a letter from Frank Hatten of Delavan, Illinois, requesting an appropriate word to describe his town’s 125th anniversary.  Two words that had previously been coined were "cenquadtennial" and "cent quart ennial," and Hatten was looking for a suggestion on which word might be preferable.

The inquiry was referred to Duke University professor and linguist Robert Chapman, who quickly responded.  Chapman suggested that since the established term for a 150th anniversary, "sesquicentennial," was based on the Latin semis que ("and a half"), then a merging of either quarta que or quadrans que ("and a fourth") would be appropriate.  Of his two options, he proclaimed "quasquicentennial" to be "the least ugly."

Hatten apparently loved the word so much that he began a personal crusade to spread it into common use.  By August 1962, just a year after it was coined, a feature story on the word was published in the Associated Press.  By 1963, it began to appear in dictionaries, which caused a delighted Chapman to write, "In the future, when festival authorities tackle the problem of a name, they may be lucky enough to locate this quasquipedalian brute of a word that answers their need."

Pronouncing the monster word actually isn’t all that difficult.  Based on the British "centenary," the American form of "centennial" is a fairly well-known word: "sen-TEN-ee-uhl."  Add "kwos-kwi" to the front, and you have "kwos-kwi-sen-TEN-ee-uhl."  If you can make sense out of the International Phonetic Alphabet, try /kwɒskwɪsɛnˈtɛniəl/ or you can hear a computerized voice speak the word at Dictionary.com.

As Heyl & Patterson celebrates its 125th year, or quasquicentennial, it seems that Chapman’s "brute of a word" has answered our need.

Heyl & Patterson was formed in 1887 as a sales agency for conveyer chains and elevator buckets, and quickly grew into the innovator of railroad and barge unloaders and thermal processing equipment that it is today.  Heyl & Patterson currently does business throughout North America and around the world, supplying mining, chemical, energy, biomass and other industries.  In 2012, Heyl & Patterson not only reflects on the progress made in the its 125-year history, but also its promise for the future.

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Tags: Heyl & Patterson, company history