The Star Gauge

Chinese poet and palindromist Su Hui lost her husband to a concubine in the fourth century. To console her grief and to lure him back, she composed an ingenious array of 841 characters that can be read forward, backward, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally:
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Each seven-character segment corresponds to a poetic line, and can be read in either direction. At the end of each segment, “you encounter a junction of meridians and can choose which direction to go,” explains anthologist David Hinton. “You can begin anywhere, and the poem ends after four lines have been chosen. This structure generates 2,848 possible poems.”

It’s said that Su Hui’s husband was so moved that he sent away the concubine and rejoined her.

In a Word


n. an unmarried person

Schedule of a bachelor’s life, from the Yorkshire Observer, Nov. 30, 1822:

At 16 years, incipient palpitations are manifested towards the young ladies.
17. Blushing and confusion occurs in conversing with them.
18. Confidence in conversing with them is much increased.
19. Is angry if treated by them as a boy.
20. Betrays great consciousness of his own charms and manliness.
21. A looking-glass becomes indispensible in his room.
22. Insufferable puppyism exhibited.
23. Thinks no woman good enough for him.
24. Is caught unawares by the snares of Cupid.
25. The connection broken off from self-conceit on his part.
26. Conducts himself with airs of superiority towards her.
27. Pays his addresses to another lady, not without hope of mortifying the first.
28. Is mortified and frantic at being refused.
29. Rails against the fair sex in general.
30. Seems morose and out of humour in all conversations on matrimony.
31. Contemplates matrimony more under the influence of interest than formerly.
32. Begins to consider personal beauty in a wife not so indispensible as formerly.
33. Still retains a high opinion of his attractions as a husband.
34. Consequently has no idea but he may still marry a chicken.
35. Fails deeply and violently in love with one of seventeen.
36. Au dernier desespoir! another refusal.
37. Indulges now in every kind of dissipation.
38. Shuns the best part of the female sex.
39. Suffers much remorse and mortification in so doing.
40. A fresh budding of matrimonial ideas, but no spring shoots.
41. A nice young widow perplexes him.
42. Ventures to address her with mixed sensations of love and interest.
43. Interest prevails, which causes much cautious reflection.
44. The widow jilts him, being as cautious as himself.
45. Becomes every day more averse to the fair sex.
46. Gouty and nervous symptoms begin to appear.
47. Fears what may become of him when old and infirm.
48. Thinks living alone irksome.
49. Resolves to have a prudent young woman as housekeeper and companion.
50. A nervous affection about him, and frequent attacks of the gout.
51. Much pleased with his new house-keeper as nurse.
52. Begins to feel some attachment to her.
53. His pride revolts at the idea of marrying her.
54. Is in great distress now to act.
55. Is completely under her influence, and very miserable.
56. Many painful thoughts about parting with her.
57. She refuses to live any longer with him solo.
58. Gouty, nervous, and bilious to excess.
59. Feels very ill, sends for her to his bed-side, and intends espousing her.
60. Grows rapidly worse, has his will made in her favour, and makes his exit.


Further ill-considered newspaper headlines gathered by readers of the Columbia Journalism Review:

MILK DRINKERS TURN TO POWDER (Detroit Free Press, Nov. 12, 1974)
COLUMNIST GETS UROLOGIST IN TROUBLE WITH HIS PEERS (Lewiston, Idaho, Morning Tribune, March 17, 1975)
STUD TIRES OUT (Ridgewood, N.J., News, March 30, 1978)
ALBANY TURNS TO GARBAGE (New York Daily News, Oct. 3, 1977)
PASTOR AGHAST AT FIRST LADY SEX POSITION (Alamogordo, N.M., Daily News, Aug. 13, 1975)
TIME FOR FOOTBALL AND MEATBALL STEW (Detroit Free Press, Oct. 19, 1977)
CHILD’S STOOL GREAT FOR USE IN GARDEN (Buffalo Courier-Express, June 23, 1977)
FARMER BILL DIES IN HOUSE (Atlanta Constitution, April 13, 1978)
DEAD EXPECTED TO RISE (Macon, Ga., News, Aug. 11, 1976)
CARIBBEAN ISLANDS DRIFT TO LEFT (Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 26, 1976)
NEW CHURCH PANNED (Albuquerque News, July 22, 1978)
CARTER TICKS OFF BLACK HELP (San Francisco Examiner, April 7, 1978)
DEER KILL 130,000 (Minneapolis Tribune, Dec. 7, 1967)
DRUNK GETS NINE MONTHS IN VIOLIN CASE (Lethbridge Herald, Oct. 30, 1976)
POLICE KILL MAN WITH AX (Charlotte Observer, Nov. 27, 1976)
YOUNG MAKES ZANZIBAR STOP (Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 4, 1977)
CHESTER MORRILL, 92, WAS FED SECRETARY (Washington Post, April 21, 1978)
PROSTITUTES APPEAL TO POPE (Eugene, Ore., Register-Guard, Dec. 18, 1975)

When the Carmichael, Calif., chamber of commerce received relatively few applications for its 1975 beauty pageant, the local Courier ran the headline FEW HAVE ENTERED MISS CARMICHAEL.

See News to Us.