Language

Succinct

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loutherbourg-Spanish_Armada.jpg

Pun fans claim that Sir Francis Drake reported the defeat of the Spanish Armada with a single word: “Cantharides” (an aphrodisiac; hence “The Spanish fly”).

When Sir Charles Napier took the Indian province of Sindh in 1843, he supposedly sent a one-word report to the British war office: Peccavi (Latin for “I have sinned”).

When Lord Dalhousie annexed Oudh in the 1850s, he’s said to have sent a dispatch of a single word: Vovi (I vowed, or “I’ve Oudh”).

And when Lord Clyde captured Lucknow in 1857, he supposedly reported, “Nunc fortunatus sum.”

A dinner guest once bet her friends that she could get Calvin Coolidge to say at least three words during the meal. He told her, “You lose.”

(Thanks, Ted.)

Misc

  • The first child to be vaccinated in Russia was named Vaccinov.
  • Every treasurer of the United States since 1949 has been a woman.
  • 15642 = 1 + 56 + 42
  • up inverted is dn.
  • “Life well spent is long.” — Leonardo

In a Word

inwit
n. reason, intellect, understanding

outwit
n. the faculty of observing the world

Finding Yourself

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mozart_magic_flute.jpg

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Choose any word in the first two lines, count its letters, and count forward that number of words. For example, if you choose STAR, which has four letters, you’d count ahead four words, beginning with HOW, to reach WHAT. Count the number of letters in that word and count ahead as before. Continue until you can’t go any further. You’ll always land on YOU in the last line.

Law and Order

My first lesson in the meticulous use of words occurred in connection with a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. Just behind us on Exeter Street lived a well-known Boston spinster, Miss Ella Day by name. One moonlight night, when I was about ten years old, I was aroused by the noise of a watchman’s rattle and hurried to the window hoping to catch sight of the burglar leaping over the back-yard fences. Although I could see no burglar, I did see Miss Day’s attenuated right arm projecting from her window with the rattle, which she was vigorously whirling, at the end of it. Thoroughly thrilled, I called across to her:

‘Miss Day! Miss Day! What is it? Robbers?’

Even now I can hear her thin shaking voice with its slightly condescending acerbity:

‘No — burglars!’

— Arthur Train, Puritan’s Progress, 1931

Body Politic

When British politician Michael Foot was put in charge of a nuclear disarmament committee in 1986, London Times subeditor Martyn Cornell came up with the headline FOOT HEADS ARMS BODY.

“I certainly wasn’t going to get ‘nuclear’ or ‘disarmament’ or ‘committee’ to fit,” he said. “To my astonishment, the headline was printed.”

Andrew Kyle later pointed out that if Foot had become prime minister and discovered that his defense secretary had approved the strongarm tactics of the National Front, the headline might have read FOOT KNOWS ARMS BODY HEAD BACKS FRONT MUSCLE.

Head or Tail

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

Cihan Altay’s Rotator typeface presents the digits 0-9 whether it’s right side up or upside down.

So this equation:

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

… can be inverted to make this one:

http://www.otuzoyun.com/rotator/

Both are valid.

(Thanks, Lorenzo.)

Bestial Passion

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gorilla_2_(PSF).png

In 1993 Jacques Jouet wrote a love poem in the language of the great apes in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs:

Zor hoden tanda
Kagoda bolgani
Rak gom tand-panda
Yato kalan mangani
Kreegh-ah yel greeh-ah
Kreegh-ah zu-vo bolgani
Greeh-ah tand-popo
Ubor zee kalan mangani.

Where are you going, gorilla,
In the dark forest?
You run without a sound
Seeking the female ape.
Beware of love
Watch out, gorilla
A lover dies of hunger
Of thirst, of hoping for the leg of the female great ape.

“The great-ape language has the peculiarity of being composed of a lexicon of less than 300 words,” Jouet notes. “In the absence of any information, it must be deemed that the syntax is according to the user’s preference, as are the pronunciation and prosody.”

In a Word

nudiustertian
adj. of the day before yesterday

ereyesterday
adv. on the day before yesterday

yestreen
n. yesterday evening

yester-afternoon
adv. yesterday afternoon

yesternoon
n. yesterday at noon

pridian
adj. of or relating to the previous day

yestern
adj. of yesterday

hesternal
adj. of yesterday

yesternight
adv. last night

hodiernal
adj. of or belonging to the present day

overmorrow
adv. on the day after tomorrow

Magic

pi alphabet grid

If π is expressed in base 26, then each of its digits can be associated with a letter of the alphabet (0=A, 1=B, … 25=Z). This produces an endless string of letters:

D.DRSQLOLYRTRODNLHNQTGKUDQGTUIRXNEQBCKBSZIVQQVGDMELM …

If the digits of π are truly random, then this string “emulates the mythical army of typing monkeys spewing out random letters,” writes Mike Keith. “Among other things, this implies that any text, no matter how long, should eventually appear in the base-26 digits of π.”

In examining the first million letters, Keith has found that the word CONJURE appears at position 246,556. If a carriage return is added after each 2,736 letters, then we have a two-dimensional field in which further words appear, in the style of a word search. Now HOCUS and POCUS appear, intersecting CONJURE (with POCUS in the shape of an L).

When each row is 14,061 digits long, then ALPHA, OMEGA, and GOD appear in a group near position 148,655. And when rows are 13,771 digits long, then DEMON and SATAN appear interlocked near position 255,717. Keith even found the makings of a charming haiku near position 554,766 when rows are 1,058 letters long:

Sun, elk in water;
Oho! For her I’ll try to
Be a hero yet.

More here. See also A Hidden Message and Equidistant Letter Sequences.