Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Codex Magniloquens

When I worked for IBM way back in 19mumble I spent my free time (such as it was) following an internal IBM online discussion group called WORDS FORUM hosted on the many networked mainframes IBM owned worldwide.  Its denizens were among IBM's most gifted 'wordies'.

One of the many delightful products of WORDS FORUM was The Codex Magniloquens, a series of quatrains each restating a familiar proverb or witticism.  The Codex is preserved elsewhere on the web, but I want to have my own copy, so I am replicating it here for your enjoyment (and mine).

To see the 'translation', highlight the entire quatrain.  The explanation is white-on-white next to the first few lines and becomes visible when highlighted.

The Codex Magniloquens:

  1. A lithoid form whose onward course "A rolling stone gathers no moss."
    Is shaped by gravitational force
    Can scarce enjoy the consolation
    Of bryophytic aggregation.

  2. Of little value, his compunctions,        "It's no use locking the stable door
    Who arrogates clavigerous functions,         after the horse has bolted."
    When once from circumscribing pen
    Is fled its equine denizen.

  3. What keeps the avian species warm? "Fine feathers make fine birds."
    It's decorations pinniform!
    When these impress, their owners' pride
    Is comparably fortified.

  4. For none who claims to represent "Time and tide wait for no man."
    The Homo species sapient
    Will loiter Einstein's fourth dimension
    Or sea's quotidian declension.

  5. Conducting to a watering-place "You can lead a horse to water,
    A quadruped of equine race         but you can't make it drink."
    Is simple, but he may not care
    To practise imbibition there.

  6. That unit of the avian tribe, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
    Whose movements one can circumscribe
    "In manu", as a pair will rate,
    Subarboreally situate.

  7. Faced with material esculent "Too many cooks spoil the broth."
    As source of liquid nourishment,
    Avoid excess, 'twill but displease,
    Of culinary expertise.

  8. Observed the coroner: "Perpend, "Curiosity killed the cat."
    "The death of this, our feline friend,
    "Reflects preoccupation shown
    "With business other than his own."

  9. To carry haulm of cereal growth         "It's the last straw
    The tylopod is nothing loath.         that breaks the camel's back."
    But just one haulm too many means
    That dorsal fracture supervenes.

  10. When, nimbus-free, Sol marches by "Make hay while the sun shines."
    The circumambient sky,
    To graminiferous meads repair -
    Your instant task awaits you there!

  11. What's purveyed by the bakery, "You can't eat your cake and have it."
    And oft partaken of at tea,
    Is some temptation to ingest,
    But cannot then be repossessed.

  12. The first arrival hirundine "One swallow doesn't make a summer."
    Should not be taken as a sign
    That it is time to aestivate.
    Hang on until you get a spate.

  13. To offer cranial inclination "A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse."
    Serves as well as nictitation
    If equine quadruped intent
    Is ocularly impotent.

  14. Observe the avifaunal nations "Birds of a feather flock together."
    Eschewing random aggregations,
    Respecting taxonomic border
    Arrange themselves in Wetmore order

  15. The topologic reconnection "A stitch in time saves nine."
    Of fabricated garb in section
    Is efficacious for preventing
    An ennead of like cementing

  16. The gallon's aliquot divisions "You can't get a quart into a pint pot."
    By eight and four have no provisions
    To compass in the former's hulk
    The liquid of the latter's bulk

  17. Rhetoric art quite fails to turn "Fine words butter no parsnips."
    The lactic oils within the churn
    And (though its hearers stand amazed)
    Leaves pastinaceous roots unglazed.

  18. The felon who purloins the hart "Poachers make the best gamekeepers."
    Reserved for mighty Nimrod's dart
    Will, in exchange for coin or kind,
    With utmost skill preserve the hind.

  19. Omitted from one's cerebration "Out of sight, out of mind."
    Midst periods of isolation--
    Forsooth one ne'er doth ideate
    One's amative consociate!

  20. No matter how he pelf acquires-- "A fool and his money are soon parted."
    Through moil or braving Satan's fires,
    Delict or battle uncontested--
    Erelong an ament is divested.

  21. However bleak the sight may be "Every cloud has a silver lining."
    Of nimbused tenebrosity
    Remember that each vapour floating
    Has within an argent coating.

  22. The pond in some deserted mead "Still waters run deep."
    Is home of bedstead, boot and weed.
    Quiescent surface does not show
    The range of hypogeal flow.

  23. She who attends the bain-marie "A watched pot never boils."
    With diligent expectancy
    Will quit this sphere from inanition
    Before it reaches ebullition.

  24. To Hymen's altar ne'er proceed "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."
    With rash and unconsidered speed;
    For swift espousals oft beget
    Protracted eons of regret.

  25. By Tiber's side what's social law "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
    Would much offend in Arkansas.
    The wisest custom's to conform,
    In manners, to the local norm.

  26. The whiskered Nimrod now departs. "When the cat's away the mice will play."
    Roll out the cheese! Lift up your hearts!
    The murine nation's on a spree:
    Ailurophobic revelry.

  27. See Cavall, Gelert, and the rest "Let sleeping dogs lie."
    Whose dormant state is manifest.
    Ignore their cynophonic snores;
    Do not alert these carnivores.

  28. Careful observation shows "Blood is thicker than water."
    That, when resisting viscous flows,
    The living fluid in the veins
    Beats that which gathers when it rains.

  29. The bony herald does not spell "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."
    For martial veterans their knell;
    Translucently their fate is that
    They emulate the Cheshire Cat.

  30. When glazing's used for every tile         "People who live in glass houses
    And panel in a domicile,         shouldn't throw stones."
    We warn the dwellers in these modules
    Against projecting petrous nodules.

  31. A rule regarding cock and hen         "Don't count your chickens
    Learned by successful husbandmen:         before they're hatched."
    Do not commence enumerating
    Ere they have finished incubating.

  32. Those of the fairer sex will find         "Men don't make passes
    Advances from the other kind         at girls who wear glasses."
    Will not come forth in their direction
    Adorned with ocular correction

  33. A porcine choral education         "Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes
    Is not a worthwhile occupation.       your time and it annoys the pig."
    You won't account it time well used,
    And hog or sow will feel abused.

  34. The power over the demesne         "In the kingdom of the blind,
    Whose lords and serfs have never seen         the one-eyed man is king."
    (Though you may think it jocular)
    Is held by him monocular

  35. In the set with every human being         "There are none so blind
    Arranged by faculty of seeing         as those who will not see."
    The minimal elements are those
    Who purposely their eyes do close.

  36. Among the threefold classification "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
    Of methods of prevarication
    Are falsehoods simple and accursed
    And those with means and graphs--the worst.

  37. The set of meals served at midday "There's no such thing as a free lunch."
    Whose cost is such that none need pay,
    Though many advertise it, still,
    Its cardinality is nil.

  38. If wistful thinking wanders on "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
    To Suffolk Punch or Percheron
    No mendicant shows hesitation
    In espousing equitation.

  39. A Yorkish gate, or ginnel, can "It's a long lane that has no turning."
    Have finite length Euclidian,
    Yet seem to fail to terminate
    If pathologically straight.

  40. Corporeal punishment "It's no use flogging a dead horse."
    With dermal lesions evident
    Is inappropriate if linked
    To eohippus that's extinct.

  41. Who emulates the bird well fed         "Early to bed and early to rise,
    And hesitates him not to bed         makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
    Will find a positive correlation
    With vigor, purse, and penetration.

  42. On queen or twin when they recline "All women are alike in bed."
    The span from base to topmost line
    Of one potentially a mother
    Equates to that of any other.

  43. Comparing levels of attainment "Blondes have more fun"
    Of merriment or entertainment
    You'll find the ones with golden braids
    Outstrip those sporting sombrous shades.

  44. Forbearance or but frugal use "Spare the rod and spoil the child"
    Of friendly bar may well induce
    A tendency to spoliate
    In persons of more recent date.

  45. Who emulates the great god Pan "Who pays the piper calls the tune"
    If recompensed by mortal man
    Shall airs and dances play for him
    Pursuant to requester's whim.

  46. Saltation of a sudden kind "Look before you leap"
    Is contraindicated: Mind
    Through observation circumspect
    The end is the desired effect.

  47. A holder that is content-free "Empty vessels make the most noise"
    Or ship abandoned, all at sea,
    In quantity of decibels
    All other sources clear excels.

  48. Of verbiage a minimum "Least said, soonest mended"
    And best of all a zero sum
    Is guaranteed to be the fix
    In the smallest count of ticks.

  49. Accusing sable epithet "The pot calling the kettle black"
    Labeling as but purest jet
    The darkest of all vessels cries
    Ignoring beams in its own eyes.

  50. A great expenditure of force "Easy does it. [?]"
    Or huge amount of power of horse
    On these success does not depend
    The soft approach achieves the end.

  51. At least one object does exist "All that glitters is not gold."
    That is with auric splendor kissed
    But, notwithstanding golden shine,
    Disappoints the ones who'd mine.

  52. Minimize each period's sum "Least said, soonest mended [same as #48]."
    Of verbal entities, and come
    To pleasant circumstances where
    Brief time's devoted to repair.

Numbers 1 to 10 by Hubert Phillips, 1943
Numbers 11 and 12 by Hugh Darwen, 1987
Number 13 by Geoff Butler, 1988
Numbers 14 to 18 by John Bennett, 1988
Numbers 19 and 20 by Paul Cohen, 1988
Numbers 21 and 22 by Christine Wood, 1990
Numbers 23 to 26 by Amy Varin, 1990-91
Numbers 27 to 30 by John Bennett, 1991-92
Numbers 31 to 37 by Evan Kirschenbaum, 2000
Numbers 38 to 40 by Geoff Butler, 2000
Numbers 41 to 43 by Evan Kirschenbaum, 2000
Numbers 44 to 51 by Chris Date 2002
Number 52 by Jerry Friedman 2004


  1. No. 44
    Spare the rod and spoil the child

  2. No 48
    Least said, soonest mended????