Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lazy Eights

See this?

See that there? That number eight, drunk on its on power? Grown floppy from the knowledge that it is the first whole number to be both a square and a cube? It’s not an eight. It’s considerably greater than that, as it signifies infinity. So I suppose the difference between the above symbol and a proper, upright eight would be infinity minus eight, whatever that is. (I’m not a math person.)

I speak of this lazy eight because the proper name for this term happens to be the new word of the week.
lemniscate (lem-NIS-kət) — noun: 1. The symbol for infinity, which resembles the figure 8 on its side. 2. any closed curve, similar to a figure eight, described by the Cartesian equation of the form (x2 + y2)2 = a2(x2y2).
Don’t ask me what the second part means. I’m more interested in there being a term for something I more commonly knew as the “infinity symbol.” I don’t care that this displaces “octothorpe” as the most unwieldy term I know for something that doesn’t technically necessitate a special term. I don’t care if it it’s pronounced to rhyme with “them biscuit.” And I even don’t care The best part about this word is that it is derived from the Latin adjective lemniscatus, meaning “decorated with ribbons.” Just the fact that this thing exists and I know about it totally makes my week.

If you’re particularly adept at the maths, the Wikipedia page for the Lemniscate of Bernoulli may further enlighten the matter. The lesson I’m choosing to take away from this? If you get so lazy you fall over, you eventually grow in strength and power to the point of being omnipresent.

Other great words:


  1. Now comes the challenge of nonchalantly slipping it into conversation.

    "Oh, yes, I was perusing the shelves and let me tell you, there was a veritable lemniscate of biscuits to choose from."

    (This probably works better if leminscate does indeed rhyme with biscuit).

    I haven't clicked on it, but fissilingual is definitely pornographic. Definitely.

  2. Damn. I just now noticed that I blew my alphabetical order. I did "L" last week with "longicorn," and somehow that escaped my notices this week. How assy of me.

    Of course, I started with "F," for no apparent reason, so maybe I'm illogical to begin with. My alphabet goes F-G-H-I-J-K-L-L.

  3. By the by, you need to read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
    I was reminded because one of the characters traces the symbol for infinity on his conquests' thighs and one particularly astute Subject calls it a "sideways eight."