So, I just got my copy of the Official toki pona Dictionary, and while I’m sure I’ll benefit from the large variety of English-to-toki-pona translations when I can’t think of a good way to say something specific, the first things I looked at were, of course, the Notes and Creative Works sections.
One of the entries in Creative Works caught my eye: nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu.
Now, nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu is a joke seximal (base-6) numbering system, based on selectively stressing the different syllables of the (also joke) word kijetesantakalu (meaning raccoon), and in which system none of that stress is written, making it nearly useless, and extremely inconvenient (as is clearly the intent).
However, while this is an annoying-to-use system that is needlessly lengthy to actually write or say, and indeed completely useless to write, I don’t think it’s good enough.
The joke of nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu is:
- That it’s a seximal numbering system (which are particularly popular amongst a subset of toki pona speakers),
- That it’s based on the joke word “kijetesantakalu”,
- That you have to use a whole long word for every digit, and
- That you cannot actually write numbers in it.
Because toki pona generally conveys meaning via a small number of words used many times, both the first and third points are completely in harmony with the intent and reality of toki pona as a language.
The joke of the word “kijetesantakalu” is that it fundamentally goes against the nature of the language: toki pona is about simplicity, and words are intended to have broad, non-overlapping meaning; therefore: kijetesantakalu is a word which is significantly longer and more complicated than any other word in the language, and basically means just one very specific thing (raccoon).
These jokes do not thematically fit, and that bothers me.
- kijetesantakalu goes against everything that makes toki pona toki pona, and is mostly useless, but it is usable and fun to the extent that it’s actually one of the earlier words I successfully memorised into my lexicon.
- nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu, aside from using the word kijetesantakalu, is very simple to use and makes sense (in a particularly toki pona way), but is simply too long and inconvenient to use to be actually used by anyone, and has a tacked-on extra joke difficulty that doesn’t fit within the rest of the joke.
To summarize, I found it funny, but insufficient, because of its lack of Kaballistic1 consistency.
So, what would be a Kaballistically consistent nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu?
Well, for starters, Seximal doesn’t make sense:
- Firstly, Seximal is a very toki pona numbering system, and is simple in all the ways toki pona is.
- Secondly, “kijetesantakalu” contains seven syllables, not six. I’m sure that’s just some part of the joke that I just didn’t get or didn’t find funny, but even then it just doesn’t really fit.
You know what is an extremely un-toki pona numbering system? Senary. (base-7)
To briefly actually explain how Seximal is so very toki pona:
- Seximal uses fewer digits than most other systems, which is fitting with toki pona’s fewer words
- Seximal cleanly divides by the two most commonly-used low prime numbers (2 and 3)
And on the other hand, how Senary is so very very not:
- Senary uses more digits than Seximal (not a lot, but it uses more to no benefit)
- Senary cleanly divides by none of the most commonly-used low prime numbers, because it is the least commonly-used sub-10 prime number.
Ok, so that’s handled. What’s next?
Right, fun. “kijetesantakalu” is fun to say and fun to use, but saying it for every digit of a number isn’t. Additionally, I think the tacked-on joke of “written numbers in this system are useless” just isn’t very funny or good.
Easy, let’s just use the individual syllables of kijetesantakalu for digits: “ki”, “je”, “te”, “san”, “ta”, “ka”, and “lu”!
Ok, now it doesn’t have those offending issues, but it isn’t complicated enough anymore.
Solution? Signed digits.
Signed digits are a concept in numeric systems where every digit can be positive or negative, instead of the whole number being represented as either positive or negative. For example, in signed-digit ternary (base-3), your digits are 1, 0, and -1. So if I write those as “(”, “0”, and “)” (respectively), the decimal number “8” could be represented as “(0)” (1*3^2 (9) + *0*3^1 * (0) + -1*3^0 (-1)).
So, in signed-digit Senary using the syllables of kijetesantakalu we could use “ki” to represent -3, “je” for -2, “te” for -1, “san” for 0 (which I quite like, since it’s the only three-letter syllable in the word), “ta” for 1, “ka” for 2, and “lu” for 3!
So, to represent the decimal number “75” in this system, we can say “nanpa ka ki je” (2*7^2 (98) + -3*7^1 (-21) + -2*7^0 (-2)).
This is simultaneously fun and extremely difficult and impractical to use! I consider this a success.
So, to lay out the system in clear and unambiguous terms:
nasin nanpa kijetesantakalu pona is a numbering system in toki pona which uses the syllables of the word “kijetesantakalu” to represent the digits (-3 to 3) of a signed-digit Senary number, in the order of highest-to-lowest digits.
The digits are represented as follows:
- “ki”: -3
- “je”: -2
- “te”: -1
- “san”: 0
- “ta”: 1
- “ka”: 2
- “lu”: 3
I propose that this is now simultaneously the most and least usable numbering system in toki pona, and therefore takes first place as the best toki pona numbering system (tied alongside the original numbering system put forward in “toki pona, The Language of Good”).
Because many people like to write toki pona in the script “sitelen pona”, I have elected to define sitelen pona for the different syllables of “kijetesantakalu”. This also serves to sort-of technically make these syllables into their own words with very specific meanings, which is also very fitting with the joke of kijetesantakalu.
The sitelen pona for each digit are as follows:
I also consider the fact that these all look very silly to be a bonus.
Please note that much of the wording in this article is intentionally a little over-the-top, and I don’t actually mean any offence to soweli Nata or anyone else, I just really like writing like this. I am, however, autistic, and sometimes I fail to communicate my tone, so apologies if did.
To any rats reading: While I think my analysis and critique makes sense, I did mostly “write the last line first”. Feel free to ignore this bit if you don’t know what that means.
I’m not actually Jewish, so my current understanding of Kabbalah is based heavily on the interpretation in Unsong, in which many things in reality structurally resemble eachother, because all of reality is a giant fractal in which every part contains the whole. In this context, something is Kabbalistically powerful or significant if many parts of it resemble the eachother.
An example, from Unsong, of this sort of resemblance is as follows:
The timer read 4:33, which is the length of John Cage’s famous silent musical piece. 4:33 makes 273 seconds total. -273 is absolute zero in Celsius. John Cage’s piece is perfect silence; absolute zero is perfect stillness. In the year 273 AD, the two consuls of Rome were named Tacitus and Placidianus; “Tacitus” is Latin for “silence” and “Placidianus” is Latin for “stillness”. 273 is also the gematria of the Greek word eremon, which means “silent” or “still”.
None of this is a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.