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Doing Polygons by the Number: But Who’s Counting?
While the suffix “gon” defines a shape with a specific number of sides and angles, the root “agon” comes from the Greek word meaning “to struggle or fight” (as in agony or antagonist). But in efforts to keep the peace, we’ll be chatting about the:
- Hexagon: From the Greek hêx.
- Heptagon: From the combined Greek heptâ and Latin septem.
- Octagon: From the Greek octa.
- Nonagon: From the Latin nonus, it’s also called an enneagon. Another “worth noting” note is that the suffix nona means sleeping sickness.
- Decagon: A hybrid of the Greek dêka and the Latin decem. While it’s easy to see how we get ten-related words such as decade and decathlon from this, the original Roman calendar only had ten months, which is why our 12th month is called December.
Anything having equal sides and angles has a name, but most examples (or need) for their usage are rare. A couple of the unwonted include the Icosikaioctagon (28 sides) and the Enakischiliagon (9000 sides).
You want six appeal, you got it.
- The Big Six: The name given to six well-known African-American leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr.) who were instrumental in organizing the civil rights movement and the momentous 1963 march on Washington.
- According to the New Testament, the number 6-6-6 is known as the “number of the beast”, who is often seen as the Antichrist or Devil (the fact it was in the 13th Chapter of Revelations didn’t help). For many, the evil associated with this number is real and intense. So much so that in 1989, when Ronald and Nancy Reagan returned to their home in Bel Air, they had their address changed from 666 to 668 St. Cloud Road.
- Workaday hexagons include a honeycomb cell, vintage floor tiles, scutes on a turtle shell, one of the 30,000 eyes of a dragonfly and nuts and bolts (designed to make a wrench’s work a hex of a lot easier).
- The upper cloud layers of Saturn have a unique hexagon shape, and are made up of ammonia ice (surprisingly, not a popular snow cone flavor). Rolling on…
- A typical die has six sides, while percentile dice have 10.
- Other six-y things include packs of beer and soda, points on a snowflake and strings on a guitar.
- “Hexpressions” and idioms:
- Check your six: If you were facing the 12 on a clock, the six would be behind you. This expression means “watch your back”.
- Six feet under: As the plague swept through England in the 1660s, graves were dug at least six feet deep to avoid further spread of the disease. Today while the minimum depth required for most graves is only 18 inches, the expression (which means dead and buried) remains alive and well. Similarly, if you’re buried at sea, you’ve been deep-sixed. Just remember to switch out feet for fathoms.
- Six of one, half dozen of the other: Another way of saying whatever choice you make, the results will turn out the same. Or, another way of saying whatever.
- In bands and band members, we have Eve 6 (California rock trio named after an X-Files character), Three 6 Mafia (This Academy Award-winning, Memphis-based hardcore hip hop group took their name from the three 6s of the biblical beast) and Nikki Sixx (born Frank Fereanna, he’s a bassist, a co-founder of Mötley Crüe and a miracle of modern science).
- In film, The Sixth Sense (Horror-thriller where the kid saw dead people, but none of us saw that coming), Big Hero 6 (Child prodigies and a marshmellowy robot named Baymax fight evil. From Marvel comics and released by Disney it was the highest grossing animated film of 2014) and With Six You Get Eggroll (romantic comedy with Doris Day, who, we assume, has a keen interest in Chinese food).
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A parody of the theory Six Degrees of Separation, this parlor game is a delight for movie buffs. It can be challenging, but the rules are simple: Using movies, link an actor to Kevin Bacon in six moves are less. For fun, let’s do Larry of the Three Stooges.
Larry Fine had a cameo in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with Sid Caesar.
Sid Caesar starred in Grease with John Travolta.
John Travolta starred in Pulp Fiction with Uma Thurman.
Uma Thurman starred in both Kill Bills with Daryl Hannah.
Daryl Hannah starred in Splash with Tom Hanks.
And Tom Hanks starred in Apollo 13 with...Kevin Bacon!
For heptagons and other seven layer tips, you might enjoy:
- In Christianity, it’s not only the number of days to create the earth, but the number of times — times 70 — we should forgive each other (sorry, no exceptions).
- In 1860 in Battle Creek, Michigan, religious delegates met to name and define their growing denomination. Reflecting the Sabbath and return of Jesus, they voted 42 to 1 in favor of Seventh Day Adventists.
- Matches made in seven include the number of seas, rainbow colors, continents, days of the week and dwarves in Snow White. Speaking of mirrors on the wall, it’s also the number of years of bad luck incurred from breaking one. Plus, you got your seven hills of Rome, wonders of the world, stars of the Big Dipper and cards dealt in Texas Hold ‘em.
- In 1972, comedian George Carlin “borrowed” a bit from Lenny Bruce and created the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. He was arrested later that year for doing the routine live in Milwaukee. Boomers know it by heart. The rest of you will have to google it.
- “Hepigrams” include:
- Seventh Heaven: In Islam and Judaism, it’s the highest of all and the only place to be.
- Seven-Year Itch: Originally named for a long-running skin condition, it became a psychological term that estimated when happiness in a marriage declined. If you beat the spread, mozel tov!
- 7th Inning Stretch: In 1910, William H. Taft threw out the first pitch for the Washington Senators. But by the seventh inning the portly President was feeling cramped and stood to stretch his legs. Thinking he was leaving, the crowd stood in respect. Today, this endearing baseball tradition still stands as an opportunity to take a little breather and sing along to the greatest sports song ever written.
- Tunes and groups include:
- I Will Be Seven: Haunting melody from Nico, Velvet Underground vocalist and everyone’s Chelsea girl.
- 7 and 7 is: From the racially diverse, critically acclaimed and largely ignored 60s LA rock group Love.
- Sevendust: Atlanta alt-metal group. When sued for using the band name Crawlspace, they renamed themselves after the insecticide.
- Zero 7: English electronica darlings, their name came from Cero Siete, an island bar off the coast of Honduras.
- Hep flick picks include:
- The Magnificent Seven: The only thing better than this epic western is its epic music theme. Yee haw!
- The Seven Year Itch: Husband “batching” it for the summer is captivated by new neighbor Marilyn Monroe. Of all the years to be left alone, huh?
- Se7en: Two detectives hunt down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his M.O. If you’ve seen it, and do NOT want to see it again, we totally understand.
Octagons and the search for a love/eight relationship:
- The Stop Sign: The captain of all octagons — and street signs — this bright red bad boy has worldwide street cred. And anyone who fails to obey this silent monitor does so at one’s own peril.
- Some run-of-the-mill eight-of-a-kinds include sides on a bumper pool table, number in a standard box of Crayons, candles in a menorah, hot dog buns, spider legs, Santa’s reindeer, tentacles on an octopus, parts of speech, boxing weight classes, sections in a standard umbrella, and planets (unless you’re a diehard Pluto fan).
- Idioms and eightiosyncrasies include:
- Over the eights: Or being one over the eight. The term means being drunk and it was originated among British military who felt that eight pints of your favorite ale was plenty. Anything over eight could be dodgy.
- Behind the eight ball: If you’re playing billiards, and the cue ball is queued up behind the eight, well, that’s not good. Just like this expression which means finding yourself in a tough or awkward position.
- Tunes that are eight-to-the-bar:
- Eight Days a Week: The seventh #1 hit for the Fab Four (and let’s not forget, before it was named Help!, the working title for the Beatles’ second film was Eight Arms to Hold You).
- Eight-Line Poem: The third song from the first side from the fourth album from the one and only David Bowie.
- Eight Miles High: This 1966 release from the Byrds was banned by radio stations for being too drug-related. Group member said it was about flying in a plane. Yeah, right.
- And in film:
- Hateful Eight: Despicable characters take shelter in a cabin from a winter storm. Don’t drink the coffee!
- Ocean’s Eight: From eleven to twelve to thirteen, until women proved anything you can do I can do better…and with fewer.
- The Octagon: Chuck Norris foils a training camp for evildoers. We assume there was no canoeing.
- 8 Mile: Eminem plays streetwise youth rapping on his own turf and terms.
- Also rans include 8 mm, Super 8, 8 Simple Rules, Eight-Legged Freaks and Hard Eight.
The nonagon — yours, nine and ours:
- Nonagons, natural or otherwise, are a little hard to come by. So, we’re putting our money on the $1 coin from the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu. The fact it’s made up of nine islands kind of seals the deal.
- In scripture, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, or nine facets of an honorable person are peace, love, joy, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, patience and self-control. Amen to that.
- In Chinese mythology, the nine sons of the dragon include a musician, a fighter, an adventurer, a screamer, one with a large shell, and ones who like lawsuits, to sit down, drink water and swallow. As super powers go, that’s a weird grouping.
- In Japanese culture, nine is considered bad luck because the words for “nine” and “pain” sound like each other. Ouch.
- Some noteworthy nines include the number of Supreme Court Justices, baseball innings and players on a baseball team, months in the human gestation period, squares in a game of tic-tac-toe (and in the opening credits of the Brady Bunch) and the thongs in a cat o’ nine tails (a flogging whip so named for the “claw” marks it left on the sufferer).
- Expressions and other nineries:
- Nine lives: Many cultures believe that due to their speed and ability to avoid dangerous situations, cats are blessed with eight do-overs.
- The whole nine yards. Meaning “everything” or “the works”, the origin of this expression continues to baffle etymologists.
- (Dressed) to the nines: Doing something to the nines meant you did it to near perfection. In Old English people in fabulous attire were said to be dressed to then eyne (plural of eye) which was misunderstood as “the nines”.
- Music includes:
- Nine: Acoustic gypsy anthem from punk pioneer Patti Smith.
- Revolution 9: Avant garde assortment of sound effects from John and Yoko on the Beatles’ White Album. Fans found it annoying and disruptive, but still tried desperately to “get it”.
- Nine is God: Indie surf punk fun from Cali-band Wavves.
- Nine Inch Nails: Industrial rockers founded by Trent Reznor, who penned the name for the simple reason that “it abbreviated easily.”
- Films include:
- District 9: Aliens are forced to live in squalor until a human steps in and ultimately gets them an upgrade to District 10.
- The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat: Weighed down by domestic life, a stoner feline imagines what his other eight lives could have been, which include stints as an astronaut and Hitler’s psychiatrist. This 1974 cartoon was the first animated feature ever given an “R” rating.
A tensational look at the decagon:
- Ten has long been the common number to rate or rank things from popular songs (America’s Top 10) to random oddities (Letterman’s Late Show Top Ten List).
- In scripture, God asked Pharaoh to free the Hebrews. Unfortunately, disregarding God’s request resulted in the Ten Plagues, which included turning water into blood, frogs, lice, flies, infecting livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the killing of firstborn children.
- Groups of ten are anything but a dime a dozen, as they include the number of Commandments, fingers and toes, bowling pins, countdown to a rocket launch, count-up in a boxing match (to determine whether a boxer can continue), legs on a crab, limbs on a squid, yards required for a first down in football, players on a lacrosse team, inkblots in the Rorschach Test and digits in a full (U.S.) phone number.
- Stacking the “dec” with expressions and idioms include:
- Ten percenter: Slang for an agent (usually of an actor) who charges 10% as his or her fee.
- Ten-Four: Credited to the Illinois State Police, it’s been used as radio code for “message received” or “OK” since the late 1930s. For decades, October 4th (10-4) has been set aside as Radio Operators Day.
- Not touch with a 10-foot pole: Meaning to stay away from or avoid at all costs, many believe this expression refers to the poles used by river boatmen and bargemen to move through waters or fend off approaching boats. Others believe it came from burial practices in New Orleans, where patrons (after a respectable year and a day) were taken from their above-ground tomb, removed from their casket, wrapped in sheets and pushed with a ten-foot pole off the tomb shelf to the bottom. Thus, allowing more rapid decomposition, and an immediate opening for a new body to be buried. Now that you know, a 12-footer may be in order.
- In tunes and tunesmiths, we have:
- 10cc: Cool 1970s art rock band from England. As this is a family newsletter, if you’d like to know how they got their name, you’re going to have to google it yourself.
- Ten Years After: Led by Alvin Lee, this British blues rock group killed at Woodstock and declared that “I’d Love to Change the World.”
- Ten tunes include the Ten Commandments of Love (Harvey and the Moonglows), Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof (Travis Tritt), Ten Cent Pistol (The Black Keys), Big Ten Inch (Bull Moose Jackson…and for the record, he’s talking about a record) and Ten Years Gone (Led Zeppelin).
- 10: The ultimate mid-life crisis movie and first major movie role for Bo Derek.
- Ten Little Indians: This murder mystery has been remade numerous times over the years, but the plot is usually the same: Ten people are gathered in a certain place and are slowly bumped off one by one.
- Ten Violent Women: Female miners get fed up with their jobs, turn to a life of crime and end up in prison. This schlock would make Ed Wood proud.