Syllables of Recorded Time

adapted from 101 Words I Don't Use by Paul Niquette

Copyright 1997 Sophisticated: The Magazine. All rights reserved.

The puzzle asks for an 8-letter word with 5 syllables.


iotacism n. The conversion of other vowel sounds in Greek to the sound of iota.

umbers are abbreviations that save letters but not syllables.
  • Does the date January 27, 1777 mean anything to you? Sixteen syllables when spoken. That's a record which will stand for exactly 1,000 years.
  • January 27, 2777 will establish a new record of 17 syllables, and it will not be exceeded for five millenia.
The shortest dates, by the way, have 3 syllables (March 1, 1 and May 10, 10). The most recent 3-syllable date was June 12, 12. Jesus still faced puberty.

Dates can be abbreviated further, of course, by giving months their numerical position within the year.

  • We routinely shortening the numerical representation of the year itself. In our quest for brevity, we ignore least significant digits, writing about historical centuries or speaking about favorite decades.
  • Then too, there are the most significant digits. Since some of those pesky old cyphers in the year change so slowly, we consider them to be a waste of time when spoken and space when written.
Or stored in our computers.

ome computer people have decided to discard digits that represent centuries and millenia, never-minding that they happen to be -- well, the most significant digits. That decision would not matter much if computers merely incremented dates with the passage of time or added dates together.  Subtractions are something else.

  • Subtractions are what computers do when comparing one date with another, like figuring out when a payment is due or a deposit was made or when some action must be taken.
  • Without most significant digits, subtractions can produce numbers that make no sense, like a negative number when only a positive number is appropriate.
Accordingly, numerically abbreviated dates deserve our respect and the undivided attention of our computers, large and small.

Dates are indeed Shakespeare's 'syllables of recorded time', and time is the ultimate arbiter of all human transactions. Accordingly, here are some final observations about the digits in dates as the 19, which we have known all our lives, changes to 20...

  • The last date that applies all odd cyphers is 11-19-1999.
  • That will be the last day with all odd digits until 1-1-3111.
  • The next all even-digit day will be 2-2-2000, the first since 8-28-888.
nother record held by iotacism: It is the least useful word in the English Language. Here's what I want to know: If some old Greek had enough initiative to invent iotacism, why can't somebody come up with a word for "run-batted-in"?

Home Page
Puzzle Page
Words and Meanings
The Puzzle as a Literary Genre