[As August 2010 marks the close of our tenth year of weekly publication, we shall spend this month enjoying "the blast from the past" with selections from Poor Mojo's Almanac(k): Year Three (issues 101-150).Ê Please, enjoy!—Your Giant Squid, Editor-in-Chief, PMjA]
[originally published in issue #116]
What is the most commonly used number system in the darkest depths of the ocean? Base-10 works for lots of things up here, but I wonder if it might be different at 12 or 13 atmospheres . . .
JIM, MPLS, MN
An interesting question, as I further meditate upon developments, both biological and cultural.
It is not truly the water pressure which bears mostly greatly (pun inserted; Ha!) upon the formation of systems of number, language or calculation. If I may refer to a surface axiom of yours "It is the functions which follow the forms." As such, my architeuthic brethren intercommunicate chromatically because we can shift our skin tone, just as your brethren clack out the food-holes (and other orifices, now that the matter strikes me . . .) as a form of communication precisely because your form fortuitously allows for the clacking. In your clackless species-mates, I hear tell that there are gestures used— just as my pigment-impaired cohort interface by bellowing terrible screeches and howlings into the briny deep.
All of which is to say, it is my form which determines my number system, and as I have 10 manipulators (two tentacles more eight arms), I use a based-10 numerical system— in many a ways, not unlike your own numerical system, based upon the general presence of ten handlettes at the terminus of a set of human angle-arms.
I suspect disapointment clouds your visage upon reading this, Jay-to-tha; doubtless you had expectations of some grand, bizarre numerical system, idiosyncratic to my kind's own expansive mode of thought, and that I might regale you with such. Apologies, there are, to make.
But, I have had the good fortune to run across one bit of the trivia which may well be noteworthy. It comes to my attention that, while your number system does differentiate among quantity (e.g. the 2 is twice the 1, and half the 4), it does only that. This is to say, there is no character to your numbers. Where I to say "Hold up to me, your number 2 finger", one human might display the index-pointer of the right armature, while another might show the middlemost finger of the leftern, while yet another might display the ring-to finger of either hand, and all would have equal claim to correctness. Furthermore, where I to say "fetch me a fierce-some of dogsheads," all humans would look at me with crypticity, while any squid (or even the youngest squidlette) would scurry off and return with a five set of canine crania.
I have reflected on this, and think of it as such: being of many parts, discrete and specialized in form, you spend much a time saying "this is an arm, this is a penis, this is an ear, this is a leg"— and as such, look upon your ten handlette, which are indeed each discrete of form, unique and specialized, and say "these are fingers." They all carry equal value, and as such if one is lost, there is nought to worry. Since your numerical system is based upon your fingers, and your fingers— to your mind— are each one like the other, then for that your numbers are also each one like the other, save that they note discrete— if arbitrary— abstract amounts.
We squid, upon an alternate manipulator, are few of limbs and discretion in parts, and are rather generally a unified whole— not a sphere in form, per se, but certainly a sphere in a certain philosophical sense. As such, we pay a fair bit greater attention to our individual parts, to the degree those parts are individualized. Especially note and effort is taken in meditating upon the tentacles, their uses and strengths, their weakness and their fondnesses. And, as our numbering system arises from our tentacles, so do our numbers carry those characteristics, much as the flippant putty might carry the image from a newsprint publication.
So, moving forward, to explicate:
First, as it is indeed primary, is the mating tentacle. He may be small— in comparison to other arms and tentacles, that if, for he is certainly intimidatingly large in comparison to any heat you might pack— but his importance is central, so he is 1, which is also Maker.
Second is the arm immediately adjacent, so often used in mating ruses (the simplest of them being the Look-to-the-finward-way misdirection ploy), and thus 2 is Duplicity.
Third is 3, the Fury, which makes best reason when one understands it to be one bookend around the fourth, which has to its other side the fifth, which is a hunting tentacle. Fury is beside the
Fourth— which is immediately leftward of the first hunting tentacle— and is 4, Affection. The sharpened observer notes that Fury and the first hunter, Fiercesome, sit astride Affection— I leave conclusions to be drawn by my Readers, as an exercise.
Fifth is the leftern hunting tentacle, 5 called Fiercesome, for it is never the leftern tentacle they expect, so frequently the leftern tentacle which is their undoing.
Sixth is the rightern— or dexterous— hunting tentacle, 6, the Mauling, for in most the dexter is the more powerful tentacle.
Seventh we find 7, The Piper, whose multi-hued siren song does draw many to the rending of the 5s and 6s.
Eighth is our 8, Serenity she (yes, for on all squidkind, even male, the eighth is a female-gendered tentacle) is the soother. Were a squid to onanize— should that be necessary, which it would not, because we are all so handsome and friend-besought— but were it to be the unfortunate case, it is with the eight that one would engage in rubluciousness.
Ninth is the arm both 8 and 2 "hops" from the mating tentacle (depending from which way your "ring around the rosy", so as to speak. This arm, 9 is Supercilious, for although we squid lack the cilia to be supered, we nonetheless find many a situation at which an eyebrow might need be cocked above our perfect eye. At these times, we tend to jiggle the Supercilious, albeit involuntarily. I myself have taken to cocking it above my eye in such times, making for a rather wavery salute intended to communicate "hmmmmmmm . . ."
Finally, we have the littlest arm, oft kept curled below the body, and thus nigh unto totally atavised and withered. This is our placeholder, the cipher 0, named Nonesuch, and, ironically, oft absolutely invaluable in mating, or hunting, or the narrow escape of the tightening squeeze. Should a squid lose his Nonesuch, he might just as well curl to a ball and soar burstingly surfaceward, for nought can come of a Nonesuchless dux.
Now, with clarity, it can be seen that, to a degree, any set of numbers is, after a fashion, like and unto a sort of dramatic, narrative poetry. Take, for example, the 30. Being composed of a 5 (Fiercesome) and a 6 (Mauling), she is a terrorfying number. Yet, further, a 30 can be seen also as a Fiercesome 5, a Duplicitous 2 and a Furious 3— even worse! Even more to destroy! Finally, 30 cannot help but conjure 3 squids, angered, each with their ten arms a-flail, coming against the one (which is the 1, the Maker, the mater, the matter and matter), to geld, which is to rape, which is to kill. Assassins always come in the threes— and 3 itself, is it not Fury! Can you not see the art by which the wheel of numbers lock and cog, whirls and drives us, brings us ever back, yet further forward?
Look well upon this and believe me now, the very notion of having to calculate a gratuity— to even look upon the tab tendered by a waiting tress or delivery-the-food— it does make my blood run cold.
Thank ye Gods Bellow for the assistance of my assistants, ever eager to serve as an intermediary in all expenditures.
Everforth in Eights,
Your Giant Squid
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