In my day, middle school math class was pretty boring, and led to some remarkable goofing off. (I’m sure math class isn’t like that today; surely no modern kid would waste time in school.) For me, math class was an opportunity to explore new worlds with my calculator — but not new mathematical worlds. The main challenge I took on was finding new words I could spell on my calculator. And this was before we had calculators with alphanumeric keyboards.
For the uninitiated, the way this works is you punch numbers into the calculator, then show it to your friends, chortling all the while. The classic Calculator Words in my class were the admittedly juvenile 80085 (“BOOBS,” pictured above), 710.77345 (“ShELL.OIL”), and the arguably incorrect 32008 (“BOOZE”) — the last one requires you to assume that the number 2 is “Z,” which is sort of a stretch. Note that the latter two words require turning the calculator upside-down, and having the “calculator font” (also known as the “digital alarm clock font”) helps.
So, thinking back on this, I thought I’d call upon fellow _flossers to create a complete list of all the Calculator Words we could think of. Unfortunately, the internet beat me to it. The best resource I could find was Langmaker’s Oðblgshezi: Calculator Words. They describe it like so:
Oðblgshezi (pronounced /oth-blg-SHEH-zee/, with a syllabic /L/) is the name of a “language” consisting of English written with the digits of a calculator. You type in a number and then turn the calculator upside down to see the word. In order to make use of all ten digits, I persuaded the Anglo-Saxon letter eth (ð) to return from retirement to stand in for ‘TH’. For instance: SHIBBOLETH (SHIBBOLEð) 937088145
Major nerd bonus points for using “shibboleth” as a linguistic sample term.
The site goes on to explain that this “language” contains only 10 letters: I, Z, E, H (h), S, G, L, B, TH (ð), and O. Despite these limitations, they’ve documented 362 words (including my favorites above). Check out the list for an awesomely nerdy cataloging of a language you never knew had a name.
Got a Favorite Calculator Word?
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user ZardozSpeaks, used via Creative Commons license.)