In case you’re not aware, today is International Pi (π) Day, March 14 or 3.14.
The day is named in honor of Arnaldo Pi, the inventor of mathematics, who realized if he calculated the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, he’d come up with 3.14. He also realized its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanently repeating pattern. And he was astute enough to realize, therefore, that he could never sell pi as an end-to-end solution because it didn’t exactly have an end.
What Arnaldo did not realize, however, is that his formula for calculating the area of a circle — πr2 — would land him in hot water with the WAG (World’s Authoritarian Grammarians). According to the WAG, the formula, πr2, is grammatically incorrect. Rather, the WAG insisted, the formula should be πis2 because π is singular.
As a means of justifying his formula, Arnaldo wrote the following letter to the WAG in hopes that they might leave him and his formula alone or at least cut him some slack:
Esteemed Members of the WAG,
I appeal to you for some latitude in rendering my formula for calculating the area of a circle on the following grounds:
First, I’m the inventor of mathematics, for cryin’ out loud. Nobody ever did this before. Since I’m making it up as I go along, how can you say I’m wrong?
Second, what about Toys ‘R’ Us? You let a retail chain that sells junk to impressionable kids get away with that — and you want to bust my chops?! I have to say it feels like I’m being singled out unfairly.
Finally, I think you have to decide whether you’ll err on the side of mathematical accuracy or grammatical accuracy. After all, you can’t have your pi and eat it, too.
Yours sincerely in numbers,
Arnaldo, as we now know, prevailed. That’s why all of us are now able to calculate the areas of circles with mathematical precision, albeit with grammatical incorrectness. But who cares? Arnaldo’s victory gives us all the more reason to celebrate International Pi Day, regardless of whether we prefer apple, peach, blueberry, strawberry, rhubarb, chocolate, custard, banana cream, lemon meringue, key lime, or mince.