Rio, al-, Ł and the machine

I am now in Rio, hosted by a very fine Brazilian mathematician who, in good Brazilian-football fashion, is universally known by his nickname.

No, the nickname is not in the picture.

Portuguese has a way of coming across to Spanish speakers as being a very offbeat way of expressing oneself, rather than a completely different language. “Cuidado – crianças brincando”? And I wonder why ham is called presunto? (Is it presumed to be ham?)

Some time ago I mentioned Stanislaw Lem’s machine – the one that could produce everything starting with the letter N. (This includes “nothingness”.) I just realized that exactly that happens naturally in Spanish, only with “machine” replaced by “the Caliphate of Cordoba”, and “n-” replaced by “al-“. Pre-Ummayad, Visigothic Spain must have been a dreadful dump: no albahaca, alcachofas, alfajores, alfileres, alfiles, almacenes, almohadas, … Also, no algoritmos or alcohol, though both must have been ubiquituous before in highly diluted and impure forms.

On that note – during my trip to Poland during the summer, I saw a bus labelled simply “Ł”. My native guide insisted that this simply due to its being the first letter of the final destination, but I still believe this to be extremely emphatic. Proposed: to label at least one bus line in each Spanish-speaking country “Ñ”.

Now that I see that they are available, I am sorely tempted to get La fille du policeman. But where to get La soeur de la reine? Oddly enough, I have never been able to find either in a library catalogue. (No, they aren’t in Project Gutenberg either.) One exception: I think I once saw a copy (the manuscript?) listed in the catalogue of a Rare Books library (Yale’s?). Given the (moderate) damage I once inflicted to the typescript of what became Additive Davenport, I didn’t dare…

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About valuevar

I am a number theorist with side interests in combinatorics and group theory.
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2 Responses to Rio, al-, Ł and the machine

  1. tomcio says:

    Ł is just a fraction of our potential. Bear in mind: ą, ę, ż, ś & others.

  2. valuevar says:

    But no other letter gets pierced through by a frightening slash, resulting in a complete transformation in sound!

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