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10851Re: [GTh] Musings on isopsephy and gematria

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  • Mike Grondin
    Mar 20, 2014
      [Rick Hubbard:]
      > It seems to me that for the purposes of establishing a working
      definition
      > it should be stipulated that isopsephy always involves 2 terms,
      the first
      > of which should be a noun in the nominative case, juxtaposed in such
      a
      > way that the numeric value of the letters in each term are equal.
       
      I think this may be a misinterpretation of what Skeat intended with his 
      definition of 'isopsephism', because:
       
      1. As far as I can tell, the widely accepted definition of 'isopsephy' is
      that it is simply the calculation of the numeric value of a word or phrase.
      Skeat's definition of 'isopsephism' ("there are certain canons governing
      isopsephisms") would require the calculation of the values of two items,
      and apparently only two. But it isn't clear to me that he intended the term
      'isopsephism' to cover all of isopsephy, or whether isopsephisms were
      intended to be a subset. The next point relates to that question.
       
      2. Among the cases of isopsephy often cited are some involving less
      than two items, some involving more, some involving no separate
      single noun as required in Skeat's definition of 'isopsephism':
       
          a. "I love her whose number is 545" (inscription at Pompeii)
              (only one term)
          b. Headstone at Temple of Artemis at Sparta Orthia: three lines,
              each explicitly declared to be equal to 4111, but no single noun
              having that value.
       
      This suggests that Skeat intended to define a subset of isopsephy, but
      if he didn't, his proposal is problematic. It would rule out some cases
      that have been regarded as involving isopsephy, and leave us without
      a term to describe the general practice.
       
      Mike Grondin
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