(1) I haveWhat I plan to do in this brief paper is to determine how manyumpteenthings to do before I can leave.^{2}

(2) I haveI will show thatmanythings to do before I can leave.

(3) I havea fewthings to do before I can leave.

(4) I havea millionthings to do before I can leave.

Our first and only assumption has already been made,^{4} but for clarity we will spell it out explicitly now: **umpteen** is an exact number, with a definite, though perhaps now lost, history and a logical, mathematical origin.^{5} We can reconstruct much of this lost history, at least in general outline.^{6} Now, on with the show.

For those not familiar with such things, let me introduce the concept of letters as numbers. The ancient Romans and Greeks^{7} used their letters for numbers, and a similar^{8} modern group, computer programmers, does likewise. When dealing, as they often do, in hexadecimal^{9} they typically use the letters A-F to represent the numbers 10-15, as in (5) below.

(5) 1A3EThese numbers are often referred to by non-letter names, such as alpha for A and charlie for C, etc._{16}= 6718_{10}

Let us suppose that a similar system is at the root of *umpteen*'s origin. There are two possible cases we must deal with. The first is that we are dealing with a system in which ump is the non-letter name for U when used as a numeral. Also, by analogy with fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, etc., the numbers such as 1A, 1C, and 1U are alphateen,^{10} charlieteen,^{11} and our focus: *umpteen.* The minimum base for such a system, to require the use of U, is base 31.^{12} In this case, the value of *umpteen* would be 1U_{31} = 61_{10}.^{13}

Our second possible case to consider is more complicated and gives a larger value for *umpteen.* In this scenario, the base used is so large that it is necessary to go beyond the alphabet for numerals to combinations of letters. In this case, *umpteen* would actually be more correctly written as *UMPteen* or 1(UMP) in a base yet to be calculated. If we are using a system in which **all** alpha-numerals have three letters, then UMP is the 14,550^{th} alpha-numeral. If we first must exhaust the single and double letter alpha-numerals, then UMP is 15,252^{nd}. Thus we have as a minimum possible base either 14,551 or 15,253.^{14} In these cases *UMPteen* would be either 1(UMP)_{14,551} = 29,101_{10} or 1(UMP)_{15,253} = 30,505_{10}.^{15}

Thus we see that *umpteen* (which we may want to distinguish from *UMPteen*) is in fact in all likelihood the remnant of a large and powerful mathematical system that is now lost in the mists of time. It comes as no surprise that such a euphonious term as *umpteen,* with such a grand, almost so-large-as-to-be-holy number meaning, would be the last remnant of this surely majestic number system.

_________________________

**Notes:**

^{1} I would like to thank Professor U. R. Stoop, ID and Ann Abolic at Skaroo U.

^{2} This is not only an example sentence. It is also a true statement. Sigh.

^{3} My therapist claims this has to do with my unresolved self-doubt stemming from my parents' poor choice of names for me.^{a}

^{4} And I bet you missed it, too!

^{5} Which, of course, is one of the basic assumptions that Linguistics makes about all words.^{b}

^{6} Which, of course, is another basic assumption that Linguistics makes about all words.

^{7} And, it has recently been proposed, perhaps Cro-Magnons as well.^{c}

^{8} i.e., those who are often thought by the ignorant to be primitive, nearly stone-age barbarians, but who are in fact highly cultured, socially adept and mathematically advanced people.

^{9} Base 16.

^{10} Alas, this form is unattested in the geek dialects I have been able to study.

^{11} This form, too, is unattested, though it may survive in a slightly altered form as *Charlie Sheen,* though the investigation of such a possibility is beyond the scope of this paper.

^{12} This is where our calculations become a little unsure. It is possible that a higher base was used, perhaps 32 (since powers of two^{d} are so popular among geeks).

^{13} In the hypothetical base 32, *umpteen* would be 1U_{32} = 62_{10}

^{14} Of course, larger bases are again possible. In the geek-based power of two system, a likely candidate for a base would be 16,384^{e} or perhaps 32,768^{f}.

^{15} In the hypothetical geek-based system *UMPteen* might be:

if UMP = 14,550

1(UMP)_{16,384}= 30,934_{10}or 1(UMP)_{32,768}= 47,318_{10}or

if UMP = 15,252

1(UMP)_{16,384}= 31,636_{10}or 1(UMP)_{32,768}= 48,020_{10}.

_______________

**Notes on the Notes:**

^{a} And my sister, Ima.

^{b} Except, of course, the mathematical part.

^{c} Though only the most recent ones.

^{d} 32=2^{5}

^{e} 16,384=2^{14}

^{f} 32,768=2^{15}, a perhaps more aesthetically pleasing choice.

Foreign Policy Recommendations for a Brighter Linguistics Future--M. Hadrian Thumpsem et al. | |

Phonological Theory and Language Acquisition--Notker Balbulus | |

SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 2 Contents | |