ASCII Tidbit

From: Mark Davis (
Date: Tue Feb 02 1999 - 11:55:04 EST

A curiosity--how many people knew that ASCII meant "those without

ascian \ASH-uhn or ASH-ee-uhn\ (noun)
          : one that has no shadow; specifically : an inhabitant of
          the torrid zone where the sun is vertical at noon twice a

Example sentence:
          "They are mysterious to me, these ascians," said Balrone,
          "for twice each year, at the very instant of noon on the
          equinoxes, their shadows vanish, and they appear to me to be

Did you know?
          When 17th-century British author and philosopher Nathanael
          Carpenter wrote a two-volume _Geography_ in 1625, he
          occasionally indulged his poetic persona, including within
          the pages of that volume some original verses. But it was no
          mere flight of fancy that prompted him to call the
          inhabitants of equatorial lands "ascii." He surely knew that
          the word (which is the plural of "ascius") came from a
          Latin term for "those without shadows" (it traces from the
          Greek "a-," indicating absence, plus "skia," meaning
          "shadow"). He also must have known that there was nothing
          mystical about such shadowlessness. At the spring and fall
          equinoxes at the equator, the sun is, for a few moments,
          directly overhead, and nothing below casts a shadow during
          that time.


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