There’s a Word for That: Piphilology

atkins-bookshelf-wordsDefinition: a mnemonic technique to remember the digits of pi.

Etymology: The word is a portmanteau, formed by combining “pi” and “philology” (the study of literary texts).

Related word: piem – another portmanteau word “pi” + “poem,” is a poem in which the length of each word represents a digit of p. For example, the first word has three letters (representing 3), followed by a one-letter word (1), followed by a four-letter word (4), and so forth.

Piku – yes, you guessed it, “pi” + “haiku;” a haiku in which follows same pattern as a piem.

Pilish – yet another portmanteau (“pi” + “English”), a dialect of English that follows the pattern of a piem.

Memorizing all the digits of pi is impossible due to its astronomical size. In September 2010, Nicholas Sze of Yahoo!, calculated pi to its two-quadrillionth digit (that is a 2 followed by 15 zeroes). Sze calculated this mind-goggling calculation over 23 days, using cloud computing technology that linked together 1,000 standard personal computers. Had Sze simply used one PC, it would have taken more than 500 years.

For those with the time and interest to memorize small or large portions of pi, a peim is one of the easiest methods. Here some notable examples:

Piem for first seven digits of pi:
How I wish I could calculate pi.

Piem for first 11 digits of pi:
May I have a large container of coffee, cream and sugar?

Piem of the first 15 digits of pi (author: Sir James Jeans, a mathematician):
How I want a drink / Alcoholic of course / After the heavy lectures / involving quantum mechanics

Piem  of the first 740 digits of pi (Mike Keith, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, The Raven); here is an excerpt:
Poe, E.: Near a Raven.
Midnights so dreary, tired and weary.
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap—the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber’s antedoor.
‘This,’ I whispered quietly, ‘I ignore.’
Perfectly, the intellect remembers: the ghostly fires, a glittering ember.
Inflamed by lightning’s outbursts, windows cast penumbras upon this floor.
Sorrowful, as one mistreated, unhappy thoughts I heeded:
That inimitable lesson in elegance—Lenore—
Is delighting, exciting … nevermore.

After completing the poem, “Poe, E.: Near a Raven,” Mike Keith, an American mathematician and software engineer, challenged himself to expand the digits of pi in a literary work and wrote the short story “Cadeic Cadenza” in 1996 that represents the first 3,835 digits of pi. In 2010, Keith published a longer work, Not A Wake: A Dream Embodying Pi’s Digits Fully for 10,000 Decimals.


Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist

For further reading:

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