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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 35, August 30, 2009, Article 7

VOCABULARY ANSWER: BICENQUINQUAGENARY

Last week I asked:

Are there any medals for a bicenquinquagenary celebration? How many years does that mouthful of a word represent?

Ron Abler writes:

I suspect that “bicenquinquagenary” refers to a 250th anniversary. We all know that the “bicent-“ portion refers to 200 years (as in bicentennial), and “quinquagenary” means 50 years and is synonymous with semicentennial or Golden Jubilee.

Another word for 250 years is “semiquincentennial,” or half of five hundred years. While I am not personally aware of any bicenquinquagenary commemorative medals, I am confident that they exist. If not, I’ll bet that our own U.S. Mint will issue one or more in 2026.

Marc C. Ricard writes:

I actually recognized the term "Bicenquinquagenary" from my other long-term passion; the world of classical music. In 1996, Princeton University celebrated their 250th or "Semiquincentennial" anniversary. The clever folks at Princeton decided to set themselves apart by using the term "Bicenquinquagenary" to name the celebration.

To commemorate the event, American composer and Princeton Professor of Music Emeritus Milton Babbitt wrote "Bicenquinquagenary Fanfare" for 2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone, and Tuba. I'm not sure if the Fanfare replaced a medal as a lasting memorial, but I couldn't find any listings of medallic issues for that event in 1996.

Dick Johnson writes:

Decoding 'bicenquinquagenary' is easy. Two hundred years can be either "bicentennial" or "bicentenary." Break apart either one and insert in the middle the decade and the year:

Thus 'BICENQUINQUAGENARY becomes 'BICEN - QUIN - QUAG - ENARY.

BICEN - 200 years.

QUIN - 40 years.

QUAG - 5 years.

ENARY - anniversary.

Answer: 245th anniversary. It changes every year. The next year (246th) would be 'BICEN - QUIN - SEXT - ENARY.

This inquiry is very similar to one in a previous E-Sylum (vol 4, no 8. art 8 for February 18, 2001). This item contained the four responses your editor received from readers on the term QUASQUICENTENNIAL

I responded then:

The name for a 125th anniversary is quasquicentennial. When I was cataloging all the firm's medals for Medallic Art Company I compiled a chart of all the useful anniversary names.

Later I learned there are rules for these names. And that every year can have a word name (not just the major anniversaries). This was brought to my attention when reading Playboy (I look at the pictures in numismatic books, I read the text in the January 1975 issue of Playboy!) The year before our nation's 200th anniversary (Bicentennial, remember?) an author came up with the name for that year: the nation's 199th anniversary. I learned the formulae from this (and it works for any year).

For anyone interested I will email that Anniversary Name chart. But it will take some time to put that formulae into words (and find that old copy of Playboy). Contact: dick.johnson@snet.net

I received a half dozen requests when E-Sylum had 369 subscribers (1.63%). If I made the same offer today and that ratio still holds, would I receive 20.4 requests?

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: VOCABULARY ANSWER: QUASQUICENTENNIAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v04n08a08.html)

Hmmm. We have conflicting answers. Does 'bicenquinquagenary' mean 250 or 245 years? Or both? Dick's answer is precise, but did Princeton get it wrong? -Editor

Gar Travis pointed out one example of a 250th anniversary medal:

The British Museum, founded in 1753, has issued a medal to commemorate its 250th anniversary. Four internationally known contemporary British artists were invited to submit designs for the medal.

British Museum 250th Anniversary Medal

For more information, see: The 250th Anniversary Medal (www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours/
museum_and_exhibition/the_250th_anniversary_medal/
the_250th_anniversary_medal.aspx)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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