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40 Peculiar P-Words To Pep Up Your Vocabulary

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As well as being used an abbreviation of post, pulse, page, pence and (in some countries at least) peso, the letter P is also the chemical symbol for phosphorus, a symbol representing pressure, poise, power and momentum in different branches of science, a particular branch of the Celtic languages in a linguistics, an indication to play softly in a piece of classical music, a function in statistical mathematics, and a designation of the clarity of a video or television screen (in which case—as in the p of 1080p—it stands for “progressive scan”). Despite all of these uses, however, P is on average one of the least-used letters of the alphabet, accounting for roughly two percent of any page of English text. So why not push P’s profile, by partaking in a few of these perfectly passable P words?

1. PABULUM

Pabulum is a Latin word meaning “fodder” or “nourishment,” which can be used in English to refer to any foodstuff that supports or nourishes. Derived from the same root, pabulation is the proper name for the process of feeding yourself, and if something is pabular or pabulous, then it’s nourishing or wholesome.

2. PACATION

The act of soothing or calming something, derived from the Latin word for “peace,” pax.

3. PACTOLIAN

The Pactolus is a river in western Turkey that was renowned throughout Ancient Greece and Lydia for its supposedly gold-rich waters and golden sands. Derived from that, the adjective Pactolian can be used either to describe somewhere covered in rich, golden sands, or else something notably lavish or lucrative.

4. PADDYNODDY

An old Yorkshire dialect word for a lengthy and long-winded story that goes nowhere and might not even be true.

5. PAEDONYMIC

If something is paedonymic, then it’s named after your child.

6. PAILLETTE

Derived from paille, a French word for a husk or piece of grain, a paillette is a single decorative piece of reflective foil or glitter.

7. PALPABRIZE

To palpabrize someone is to flatter them. It comes from a 16th century word, palp, meaning “to caress.”

8. PANCHRESTON

Derived from the Greek for “useful for everything,” a panchreston is a cure-all or panacea. Likewise, a panpharmacon is a universal medicine or remedy.

9. PANDATION

When something shrinks, stretches, or bends under a heavy weight, that’s called pandation. Whereas…

10. PANDICULATION

…is the proper word for stretching and yawning when you wake up in the morning.

11. PANIFICATION

A formal name for the process of making bread.

12. PANOMPHEAN

Panomphaeus is an old Latin epithet for the Roman god Jupiter, which essentially means “the entire voice of a god.” The corresponding adjective panomphean can be used just to mean “Jupiter-like” or “jovial,” but more specifically describes either someone who appears to hear everything, or else any word that appears universally understood by speakers of different languages.

13. PANTAGRUELIAN

Derived from Pantagruel, the name of an insatiable giant in the title of a work by François Rabelais, if something is pantagruelian, then it’s exceptionally large or has a voracious appetite.

14. PANTOGLOT

A pantoglot is someone who can speak all languages. We’re looking at you, C3P0.

15. PANTOMNESIC

If you’re pantomnesic, then you seem to remember everything.

16. PARBREAKING

A 16th century word for belching or vomiting.

17. PASTE-AND-SCISSORS

Victorian journalists’ slang for throwaway, filler material.

18. PAUCILOQUY

Derived from paucus, a Latin word meaning “few”; if you’re pauciloquent, then you use very few words. Similarly, if you’re paucidentate then you don’t have many teeth.

19. PEDIPULATE

To pedipulate something is to move or knead it with your feet.

20. PEELIE-WALLY

A Scots dialect word meaning “sickly-looking” or “weak and feeble.” Peelie is probably derived from “pale,” while the wally is thought to come from an old exclamation of sorrow or woe.

21. PENSICULATIVE

A 17th century adjective meaning “in deep consideration of something.”

22. PERFABRICATE

In some contexts (like pervade or perforate) the prefix per– is used to mean “entirely,” “thoroughly,” or “all the way.” Consequently, to perfabricate something is to see its construction through to completion—while to permute something is to change it completely, and to pervigilate something is to watch it diligently.

23. PERHIEMATE

The perfect word for January—to perhiemate is to spend the winter somewhere.

24. PERVOO

Derived from an old Scots word referring to a bird that deserts its nest, to pervoo is to abandon a group of friends or to stop socializing with someone.

25. PHEESE

An old American slang word for any fretful, unsettled, irritable feeling.

26. PILCROW

That paragraph sign, ¶, that looks like a reverse P? That’s a pilcrow.

27. PINACIPHOBIA

If you have this, then this probably isn’t the right place to find out—also called katastichophobia, pinaciphobia is the fear of lists. Other P phobias include pteronophobia (feathers), phasmophobia (ghosts), pyrophobia (fire), pediculophobia (lice and mites), and photophobia, which is used to refer to the dislike some creatures, like cockroaches, have for light. Panophobia or pantophobia, incidentally, is the fear of everything; phobophobia is the fear of fear itself.

28. PITCHERINGS

According to one local English dialect dictionary, if a young man who’s just started a new relationship happens to bump into one of his friends while he’s out with his new girlfriend, the friend can ask for pitcherings—a small sum of money, intended to be spent on drink for himself to toast the couple’s new relationship.

29. PITCHPOLE

As well as meaning “to turn head over heels” or “to somersault,” to pitchpole is to sell something for twice its cost.

30. PITT’S-PICTURE

An attempt to raise tax revenues based on the relative value of a home—and, ultimately, the prosperity of the homeowner—the Window Tax was a tax levied on homes in England from 1696 until it was finally repealed in 1851. Initially, a flat fee of 2 shillings (£12/$17) per house was applied to all homes across England, but that rose to 4 shillings (£24/$35) if the house had between 10-20 windows, and 8 shillings (£48/$70) if there were more than 20. When these already controversial prices were increased by Prime Minister Pitt the Elder in 1784 (to offset a vast loss in national income caused by a massive reduction of the tax on tea), many homeowners drastically opted to remove the windows in their properties to dodge the fee; a Pitt’s-picture, in 18th-19th century slang, is simply a bricked-up window.

31. PIZZLO

Probably derived from an old Scandinavian word for a knot in a sheep’s fleece, a pizzlo is a tangled confusion or muddle.

32. POGONOPHOBIA

If you’re pogonophobic, then you hate beards. The process of growing or shaving a beard is called pogonotrophy or pogonotomy, while a pogonology is a written treatise or description of a beard.

33. POKER-TALK

19th century slang for gossip. Literally, it refers to a gossiping conversation had by a fireplace (i.e. where the poker is kept).

34. POOSK

An old Scots word, variously meaning “to hunt for something” or “to pick through something looking for something else,” or else “to fidget” or “to potter about doing odd jobs.”

35. POT-OF-WINE

An old euphemistic nickname for a bribe.

36. PRICK-ME-DAINTY

As a verb, prick has been used since the Middle English period to mean “to dress in fine clothes,” or “to be showily overdressed.” Presumably derived from that, prick-me-dainty is a 16th century word—possibly originally from Scots English—for a particularly fussy or affectedly prim and proper person.

37. PUGGLED

As well as meaning “slightly drunk,” puggled can also mean “astounded” or “utterly confused.” In both cases, it’s perhaps derived via English military slang from pagal, a Hindustani word meaning “furious.”

38. PULPIT-THUMPER

A 17th century word for a particularly enthusiastic clergyman or preacher.

39. PURWHEEGNAL

An old Scots dialect word for a stench.

40. PYSMA

In Ancient Greek, a pysma was any question that required a detailed explanation rather than a straightforward yes/no answer. The term is still used in rhetoric today to refer to a figure of speech in which someone asks a chain of difficult questions, typically with the intention of belittling or picking holes in someone else’s idea or suggestion.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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