This last week there was a post on the Mathemagical Site titled “Do You Speak Pilish?” Some people remember the digits of π by memorizing carefully constructed sentences in which the first word has three letters, the second word has one letter, and so on. Several examples were given, not just in English, but in eight other languages as well!

Hungarian was not one of the languages listed, but I wondered if there could possibly be a Pilish way for Hungarians to remember the digits of pi? (Almost all of my husband’s relatives were born in Hungary, and I am fascinated with the country and the language.) I just had to google “Magyar pi szám,” to find an article titled Minden idők legjobb magyar nyelvű pi-verse.

Now while I can read many Hungarian words, the sentence structure is so different from English that my comprehension isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. My son, David, taught himself the basics of the language before he went there to live and work several years ago. I emailed him the article requesting that he help me with the translation. In the email he sent back you will notice the problem with word for word translation of Hungarian into English. My son wrote:

“I don’t think I could translate it whilst maintaining the word lengths (which is the whole point). I’m giving it to you with a more or less word for word translation along with one that is written in more natural English. The Ludolph it mentions in the poem is the Dutch mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen, who was the first to publish pi up to 20 digits.”

I put his word for word translation in the following graphic:

Here is David’s translation into more natural English:

- Instead of the old and rough approximation,
- Count the letters that come, word for word
- If we end here at twenty words, we already have Ludolph’s result,
- but exactly 10 more come from this last stanza.
- That, I can promise confidently.”

Here is my answer to the question, “Do you speak Pilish?”

Not really. I am not the least bit interested in memorizing some cute paragraph in English to help me remember the first 30 or so digits of pi, BUT in Hungarian, I am going to give a try!

- 426 is a composite number.
- Prime factorization: 426 = 2 x 3 x 71
- The exponents in the prime factorization are 1, 1, and 1. Adding one to each and multiplying we get (1 + 1)(1 + 1)(1 + 1) = 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. Therefore 426 has exactly 8 factors.
- Factors of 426: 1, 2, 3, 6, 71, 142, 213, 426
- Factor pairs: 426 = 1 x 426, 2 x 213, 3 x 142, or 6 x 71
- 426 has no square factors that allow its square root to be simplified. √426 ≈ 20.6398

Nice post 🙂

Btw, I personally don’t speak Pilish as well since I used a different memory system for memorizing pi. Besides, while Pilish is quite good and clever, it’s still inefficient for memorizing large number of digits of pi. However, if you just want to learn the first few digits of pi, I think that using “Pilish” will suffice.

I’ve never really been one for poems as mnemonic devices, actually. It’s something in the way I’m wired, I guess.

I bet there are people who enjoy the challenge of actually constructing a Pilish verse. Writing it may be a lot of fun. Actually using it may not be nearly as helpful as other methods of memorizing.