Amoeba’s Lorica: 14 March ICYMI

This post was written on the 14th of March, Common Era year 2023.

The date is sometimes written 3.14.2023, or (if the year is assumed) 3.14.

The number 3.14 is the most common two-decimal-place approximation of the irrational number that expresses the quantity “ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter”, a quantity commonly expressed by the Greek letter “π”. Consequently, it has become habitual for the 14th of March annually to be referred to as “π Day”.

It has also become habitual to pronounce “π” as “pie”, rhymes with “lie” or “fry”. This is unfortunate, as pies are usually baked, not fried. Unless you’re McDonalds (YFNA feels for you). It also begs the question of whether a confectionary baked in a square pan can ever be called a “pie”, given that π is necessarily defined in the context of a circle. A prime example of circular logic.

Unfortunately, the pronunciation of “π” as “pie” doesn’t conform to modern language usage. Said pronunciation conforms to ancient Greek, the language of Homer (not that Homer, this Homer), and of junior high school math classes where sines, and cosines, and the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, were Greek to just about everybody, and tangential to what really mattered (for example, the length, or lack thereof, of Cindy’s skirt).

In today’s Ελληνική Δημοκρατία (Democratic Elysium, aka Greece), the letter π is pronounced “pee”. Just like the Latin (and English) letter P, which is what π evolved into in Rome, London, and New York. There is a letter P in the Greek alphabet, but it is pronounced “rho” – an example of rho learning.

[Ahem] This pronunciation of  π as “pee” changes the focus of our consideration of the letter and its social importance from the enjoyment of a delicious comestible to contemplation of its ultimate fate. Perhaps an event that’s not particularly appetizing, or even healthful. Consider, for example, pee crust. Ew.  Or one that’s worthy of celebration. Especially given the frequency of its occurrence, and its independence from the type of comestible consumed.

In case you missed it.

You’re welcome.

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