In a Word

n. use or enjoyment

adj. giving only the illusion of plenty

n. bad management

adj. irate

The residents of the parking-challenged Hampshire town of Farnborough were delighted in 2016 to learn that a fully equipped car park had been lying unused for five years. The bad news: It could be reached only on foot. It resides on a roof above a gym complex.

Under the plan, motorists would reach the facility via a bridge from an adjoining property. But that site was still under development.

“We have a massive problem with car parking in Farnborough,” councillor Gareth Lyon told the Independent. “To have had this huge car park lying empty defies belief. It is ridiculous.”

(Thanks, Charlie.)

Sums and Sums

lee sallows self-descriptive magic square

Something new from Lee Sallows: a self-descriptive magic square. Each row, column, and long diagonal adds up to 20, and every letter used is correctly counted.

“You may notice that the square includes a fox. But don’t be foxed by the fox. Just enjoy him. For this is not merely any old fox. No, it is our old friend the quick brown fox that jumped over that lazy dog!”

(Thanks, Lee!)

Toki Pona
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 2001, Toronto translator Sonja Elen Kisa invented a language, “my attempt to understand the meaning of life in 120 words.” She called it Toki Pona (“good language”) and focused on minimalism, trying to find the smallest core vocabulary needed to communicate. With only 120–125 root words and 14 phonemes, the language helps its speakers to concentrate on basic things and to think positively — Kisa told the Los Angeles Times, “It has sort of a Zen or Taoist nature to it.”

To her own surprise it’s begun to grow. By 2007 Kisa estimated that 100 people spoke Toki Pona fluently, and it’s since expanded in online forums, social media, and even hacked video games. Here’s the Lord’s Prayer:

mama pi mi mute o, sina lon sewi kon.
nimi sina li sewi.
ma sina o kama.
jan o pali e wile sina lon sewi kon en lon ma.
o pana e moku pi tenpo suno ni tawa mi mute.
o weka e pali ike mi. sama la mi weka e pali ike pi jan ante.
o lawa ala e mi tawa ike.
o lawa e mi tan ike.
tenpo ali la sina jo e ma e wawa e pona.

And above is a contract written by Jonathan Gabel in the sitelen sitelen writing system, arranging for sale of the contract itself as a piece of art. Official site, dictionary, language course.

Words to Remember

Designed by a multidisciplinary team at Melbourne’s RMIT University, Sans Forgetica is a typeface that’s intended to reduce legibility, on the theory that the “desirable difficulty” of reading it will result in deeper processing and, ultimately, better retention.

The back-slanted, incomplete letters form a “simple puzzle” for the reader, RMIT lecturer Stephen Banham told the Washington Post last October. “It should be difficult to read but not too difficult. In demanding this additional act, memory is more likely to be triggered.”

The team say they’ve tested the font on university students and found that “Sans Forgetica broke just enough design principles without becoming too illegible and aided memory retention.” You can try it yourself — they’re offering a free download and a Chrome extension.

Form and Function

It’s sometimes suggested that the modern QWERTY keyboard was designed so that typewriter salesmen could impress customers by typing the phrase TYPEWRITER QUOTE on the top row of keys.

It wasn’t, but they could.