This Month

One of the great rewards of adult life is its relative freedom from arithmetic. Unless a man is teaching the stuff or obliged to compute the characteristics of a proximity fuse, he gets by comfortably on long division and the ability to add a column of figures totaling less than one thousand. He may have trouble with his womenfolk, who are always asking him how to multiply fractions or how many times 6¾ inches goes into 4 1/5 yards, but even these posers he can usually shift to the girl at the notions counter.

He avoids coördinates, never ventures into dry versus liquid measure. The sailor climbing a mast, at the rate of fifty feet, a, minute on a vessel going ten miles an hour may be graphing himself as a straight line or a graceful arc, but the well-placed adult cares not which. If he needs to know the cost of 6.5 gallons of gasoline at 19.7 cents, he simply looks at the gas pump.

He counts no change, balances no check stubs, and regards any windfall as so much gravy without, peering too closely into the bookkeeping behind it. It would be overstating him to say that such a man is no good at mathematics: be is no good even at what used to be called “number work.”

As one who works in the written word and whoso square roots go no higher than √81, I have a feeling of occupational snugness in watching Warren Weaver (page 88) set. forth the Skewes number,

I am impressed by how compactly Skewes expresses his number, with all the economy of a line by Pope — nothing wasted. If I read Mr. Weaver aright, this was the largest number for which Skewes had immediate use, and one can applaud his moderation in not blowing it out further just as a stunt. But two billion persons, furiously putting down zeros for two thousand million million years, wind up with an impressive total any way you look at it. In our disnumerical (see René MacColl’s article, page 87) security, let us think kindly of Skewes and indeed of every sailor climbing a mast at fifty feet a minute.

Several items of unfinished business arise from recent. Accent on Living subjects. The first was the failure of our August contributor Q. de Gout to denounce the pasteboard, or at any rate paper, straw as a means of sipping a mint julep. The oversight was pointed out. to us by Cary Robertson of the LouisvilleCourier-Journal. He was willing to admit the use of a glass sipper or a wheat straw; the latter, he said, even had a rather pleasant “natural” flavor, fit to mingle with such other fine natural substances as bourbon and mint.

In the May Atlantic, for the benefit of those obliged to buy wedding presents, there appeared on this page The Case for the Marmalade Spoon (about $3.75). The weddings and receptions that I have attended since then seem to support the reasoning of the article, but I find that it should have offered an essential bit of advice to grooms and ushers: The Case for the Turndown Collar. There is something in the structure of a rented cutaway — probably an ingenious use of whalebone or spring steel — which causes the coat collar at the back to stand off, rigidly, about four inches behind the occupant ‘s neck.

In the days when men actually wore wing collars, a neckband shirt had a loop in the back to prevent the tie from climbing. Another anchoring device was a large hinged, back collar button, projecting so formidably as to be perceived as a lump even under the coat collar that did fit. But the queer architecture of the rented cutaway exposes these mechanisms so flagrantly that one might just as well let the tic jump the collar and climb ear-high. Such was the choice of most grooms and their attendants whom I saw in Hie mating season just passed. The 1949 class should, therefore, consider on its merits the Case for the Turndown Collar.

C. W. M.