A couple weeks ago I asked:
Are there any medals for a bicenquinquagenary celebration? How many years does that mouthful of a word represent?
Last week Dick Johnson wrote:
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.
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?
This week Arthur Shippee writes:
I'd like to know how "quin" gets to 40 and "quag" gets to 5. You call the answer "precise", by which I guess you mean detailed, but the question is whether it's correct.
You can check http://arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Latin/ to see that "quinquaginta" is Latin for 50, and the "g" is part of the suffix for ten-fold, as in words like octogenarian or Septuagint.
Ron Abler writes:
I see a delightful debate in the making here. And it is not often that I ever disagree with Dick Johnson; let alone with any confidence. To support my contention that bicenquinquagenary refers to the 250th anniversary, I offer the following Wikipedia definition: "Semiquincentennial - 250 years. Variation: Bicenquinquagenary was used by Princeton University in 1996, and by Washington and Lee University in 1999."
The word is also specifically defined in the Gustavus Adolphus College Style Guide, from which I excerpted the above image. Also, the Latin word for "fiftieth" is "quinquagesima." And the day a "quin" of anything refers to four instead of five is the day my dog becomes a quinaped.
I found the same references on the internet earlier, but hadn't had time to comment. We all know that Wikipedia is no authority, although it can be a useful starting point. We already knew of the Princeton University use of the word. But when I searched further I found a lot of redundant and circular references - one web page citing another web page which cited a third web page, but nothing linked to anything more authoritative than the Gustavus Adolphus College Style Guide.
So I'm still not fully convinced, but there does seem to be a consensus among our E-Sylum respondents that 'bicenquinquagenary' means a 250-year anniversary.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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