It’s in the Constitution!

U.S. Constitution: Article I, Section 10, idiot “it's”As the author of that most notorious document, “The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language”, I’m always on the lookout for how that most humble of punctuation marks humbles the high, mighty, and pompous.  One of these days I’m going to make a “meme” (yes, I know that this is a corruption of the original meaning of the word) which shows the apostrophe key on a keyboard with the legend “The apostrophe key: its there to show readers if your an idiot.”  Indeed, nothing so distinguishes slapdash scribbling from words worth reading than confusion between “its” and “it’s”.  That’s because the rule distinguishing them is so easy to remember: “If you mean ‘it is’, or ‘it has’, write ‘it’s’. Otherwise, write ‘its’.”  In particular, the use of “it’s” when the possessive “its” is intended, which I call an “idiot ‘it’s’ ”, is the signature of the sloppy writing of a muddled mind.

Imagine my surprise when reading the official transcription of the U.S. Constitution published by the U.S. National Archives to find, in Article I, Section 10, paragraph 2, the following text:... [Read More]


Puzzle: Numbers in the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Constitution, top of documentThe U.S. Constitution contains all kinds of numbers: cardinal and ordinal numbers, absolute dates, measures of duration, quantities of money, fractions, and areas.  There are, as best I can determine, no irrational, transcendental, complex, or transfinite numbers in the document (although the latter may eventually be required if an amendment is adopted regarding the public debt).

You can probably guess the function of many of these numbers, but there are some curious ones lurking in there whose significance may be less than obvious.  Without looking at the document or performing a Web search, can you recall (or guess) in what context(s) the following numbers are used?  For the purposes of this puzzle, I use the text of the Constitution and the 27 adopted amendments as published by the U.S. National Archives.... [Read More]