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In which the Professor Dr Dr Dr Baron recounts the unfortunate consequences of blamelessly inspiring romantic feelings in unusual subjects.

Those select few acquaintances with whom I share the full range of my scholarly and academic interests know that I am not a man to engage in anything by halves, and least of all the pursuit and publication of Truth. In addition to being the cause of my famous detestation of all forms of exaggeration and hyperbole (to which end I have formed with my friend the Baron Munchausen the Teutonic Society of Strict Adherents to Veracity – we publish regularly from the Igelfeld seat, and you may address all requests for subscription there), it is also the reason that I hold the record for the most memberships of and subscriptions to philosophical societies and periodicals of all kinds. Unlike my dear friend the Baron, who although redoubtable in both fields is a military man before he is a scholar, I have always placed my love of Learning ahead of my inclination to Triumph, though thankfully the two imperatives have never yet come into conflict and indeed I have been flattered by some that it is such humble sagacity as I possess which is the secret to my extraordinary success in all endeavours. Because of this allegiance to Truth, I hold that the ebb and flow of nations’ alliance and war are as the shadows of clouds scudding over the Eternal Verities, and that therefore the pursuit of Knowledge must continue unabated; hence, I continue to participate in all learned societies regardless of whatever temporary state of hostilities may exist between the nations wherein I possess title or holding and the nations wherein the aforesaid societies are active. Certain skeptical scallywags express uncertainty as to whether my memberships are genuine or merely for show, as they doubt I could feasibly maintain the volume of correspondence required; to these ninnies I merely reply that the true scholar can not only dictate multiple letters at once in the manner of Caesar or St Catherine of Siena, but, if he is willing to slightly compromise his high standards of penmanship, can also teach himself to write simultaneously with both hands and if need be with both feet, an omnidexterity which can also serve him well in numerous other endeavours.

Pray excuse my divagations; such patently ill-informed attacks on my honour would not bear answering, except that I cannot allow such obvious falsehoods go unchallenged when correcting them also offers the opportunity to share techniques which may be used by others in their own scholarly pursuits. The tale in question is that of how for a full month my membership in every scholarly society dedicated to the study of the past was suspended; the narration thereof necessitates some reference to a period which contained some of my more remarkable adventures, but rest assured that I shall gloss over those events which are not strictly compatible with the meanest understandings of plausibility.

The period in question is a time I spent in the Platonic realm, where reside the Ideal forms of which our mundane world contains only inferior reflections, as they were copies cast with greater or lesser care from a die. The means by which I arrived in Platonia is difficult to relate, requiring as it does an understanding of existence not easy to communicate in the limited languages of the Real, especially to those who have not resided in or at least directly experienced the Ideal. In any case, certain scholars to whom I have confided my experiences more fully have suggested that my entry into that hallowed realm would not necessarily be duplicable by others; they believe, and I report this disinterestedly as a theorem offered by exceptionally learned men and women, that it was only an extreme proximity in nature to the Ideal of Manhood that made it possible for me to be assumed into Platonic being at all.

Whatever the case, while there I made the acquaintance of a certain Number. For reasons which will become apparent I cannot now name this Number (but should anyone seek to imply that this is for scandalous cause, I shall pull his nose and demand retraction on pain of a trouncing as solid as I gave the Sultan’s 1st, 3rd and 11th Janissary Companies on the unfortunate occasion when they mistook me for the thief of the Pyramids of Giza); but, without venturing into wholly ungentlemanly detail, following some trifling demonstrations on my part of new mathematical techniques and formulae which I devised ad libitum during our conversation, this Number conceived an admiration for my person which became so passionate as to diverge from the Ideal of Platonic Love, such that this Number’s residence on that exalted plane of being was imperilled. This being the realm of the Ideal, the truth that a Man such as myself could never return affections of such nature to a Number, no matter how charming, was apparent and unavoidable; the Number, despite all the best efforts of gallantry, chivalry and courtesy (both my own and the Platonic incarnations of said Ideals) to offer consolation for the unfortunate truth, became heartbroken and decided to retire from interaction with the world.

The consequences of this reordering of the Platonic realm were manifold, though I did not discover them until my return to mundane existence, which was not until a great many more extraordinarily interesting events had transpired, some of which may even be relatable in this limited account of my life; but I cannot explain the nature of these changes without finding some way to name the Number – albeit indirectly, as its actual name can no longer be spoken in any language. However, in my philological researches (and I confess that the study of language has always occupied one of the softest posts in my manly breast; I hope that future adventurer-scholars of my line will find more time to devote to such research than can be afforded a gentleman confronted with the imperfect world of today) I believe I have found traces of the Number’s passing from the mortal realm in the English language, and I will use said terminology in the following account of the changes wrought by the Number’s cloistering of itself.

For reasons that will become apparent, I must note at this point that I was born in the Umpteenth Century – the one after the 17th, but previously prior to the 18th. In point of fact, I had been born at ump-umpteen and ump-point-ump-recurring seconds on the Umpth of Umptember, Umpteen Umpty-Ump, a datum which I believe may have played a part in the fatal attraction I exerted upon the Number Ump.

(Those who would point out that the Umpteenth Century would, under current naming schemes, actually have been the years 1701 to 1<Ump>00 are merely displaying their ignorance of the fact that the current disordered naming schemes are a further result of this upheaval. Previous to Ump’s retirement, the century of Christ’s birth was known as the CD, or Centennio Domini [in English, “the Century of Our Lord”. Ed.]. The “First Century” was, like the first floor, the first one above the base, meaning the years 100-199 AD – and yes, this also is accurate as the same principle applied to the year of Christ’s birth, which was simply the Anno Domini, and the first year AD was the year after that. Perhaps now you begin to understand the full confusion unleashed by this unfortunate case of heartbreak, and the overwhelming influence wielded upon mortal affairs by events in the Platonic realm.)

As a consequence of my notable birthdate, when I sought to return to the secular world, the celestial beings overseeing my translation back into worldly form were thrown into confusion. My absence from mundane existence during the great reordering consequent upon Ump’s withdrawal meant that I had been overlooked by the beings responsible for such matters, giving me no fixed time of origin. As a consequence I was sent hurtling through time and space for a considerable period of my lifespan, occasioning some remarkable experiences (the least of which I may relate at a later date), while the appropriate divine authorities determined at what point I should be deemed to have begun my life. In the end, they decided that it was simplest if all instances of the numeral Ump in my biography were replaced by the numeral 7, which explains both my fortunate contemporaneity with my good friend the Baron Munchausen and my ability to have experienced more (over a century’s worth) than should be possible for one apparently born in the year 1777.

(I relate this purely in order to resolve the necessary anxiety felt on my behalf by all persons of a character sufficiently fine to be my readers, and not in order that, knowing the date of my birth under the new numbering scheme, noblepersons conscious of their genteel duties of reciprocity to an author whose work they admire should be obliged to send birthday gifts to the Igelfeld seat. Such insinuations are a scurrilous insult to both my motives and those of my readers, none of whom could possibly be so base as to have failed to ascertain the date and send gifts in any case.)

But my own personal travails were, of course, the least of the consequences of the Number Ump’s disappointment. As the attentive reader will have observed, the Number Ump had previously held its station between the Numbers 7 and 8, and had originally been accorded responsibility for good fortune in all numerological systems; its retirement saw the adjacent numbers forced to split this duty between them, with the 7 shouldering the burden in Occidental lands and the 8 becoming the lucky number of the Far East.

Additionally, many of the world’s peoples had originally had Ump days in a week; the Divine Numerocracy, sharing in that quality of mercy which marks the Deity, had opted to commemorate the period of the world’s creation by granting most such nations the shorter, 7-day week, but as many days are unfortunately rather stupid (and who among us has not known singularly doltish days?), a considerable number became confused and either failed to find their place in the revised calendar or remained wandering around outside it, which explains the phenomenon experienced by so many people of days either appearing from nowhere or vanishing without a trace when one was certain they were there in front of one. (I have heard the term “squodge” used to describe this phenomenon, with February 29th designated an official Squodge Day to mark the existence of these hemeral rogues.)

But perhaps the most drastic consequence for the world of the absence of an entire Number was the tremendous crowding of the events of history into a suddenly-reduced span. The loss of 4,641 years from each 10,000 years of the passage of time – not to mention an entire 34-day month and another 36 scattered days within each remaining year – made for tremendous overcrowding of both history and archaeology, as any student of either can confidently attest. This overcrowding is certainly the cause of the tremendous ferment of change and activity in the world in the past 200 years, between the beginning of the 17th Century and the end of the 18th; presumably now that we have entered into the 1800s the world will slow down and change less drastically, at least until the 1870s, and with the backlog cleared most of the 20th Century will be positively tranquil. (Similarly, one can only assume that events at the end of the last millennium remain largely lost to written history because everyone was too busy scrambling to keep pace with events to actually write them down.)

This regrettable compaction of history is the reason my activity in the world’s societies of historical and archaeological scholars is suspended for an entire month each year, despite the fact that I in no way behaved dishonourably towards the Number Ump, and indeed did all I could consistent with the claims of truth and nobility to prevent its self-sequestration. (That this is so is proven by the fact that these events transpired at the Platonic level, and therefore it were literally impossible for me to behave in less than an Ideal fashion.) The injustice is mitigated only slightly by the fact that the month chosen is my birth month of Umptember, which at least no longer actually takes place, effectively meaning there is no lapse whatever in my ability to contribute to Scholarship. The principle is the thing, however, and as no true gentleperson can fail to insist on fighting for a just principle, regardless of the odds for or against, I invite you to write on my behalf to any such Society in which you enjoy membership.

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