Friday, August 5, 2016


Today is the momentous occasion of my 33rd birthday. What makes it so momentous?* Well, all the digits in the number are identical! That only happens once every 11 years (or less, if you happen to live past 111), so it's definitely something to celebrate.

However, in searching for a word to describe such an occasion, I found that none exists! Really! None! In this world where we like to assign especial importance to some ages (e.g. 40) over others (e.g. 23), it seems astonishing that there's not a word to describe this special set of birthdays. Certainly, birthdays like 33, 55, and so on are palindromes (and many people make special recognition of palindrome birthdays), but so is 101, and that – though very impressive in many senses including its acknowledgment of sheer longevity – isn't a number where all the digits are the same. Although it has been suggested (probably by just one person trying to be funny) that we use the word "schnaplefest" for this type of birthday, that hardly seems to be common usage, and it still doesn't describe the number itself—just the celebration of the corresponding birthday.

So what is the word for a number in which all the digits are the same? As far as I can tell, in this vast and ever-growing language we call English, there is none! I am completely floored by this simple and fundamental gap in our collective vocabulary. But I have a solution. We'll make a new word!

And it's going to be "equidigital!"

In thinking about this neologism, I really got attached to the prefix "iso," which means "equal" and is Greek in origin. I originally decided on "isodigital," but "digit" is Latin-based, and my purism just wouldn't allow me to combine languages like that! Fortunately, "equ" is a Latin prefix, and means (unsurprisingly) "equal" as well! If you want to be really strict about it, most words with an "equ" prefix seem to refer to a sense of balance between two things rather than unlimited comparable identities, but in a strictly literal translation, "equidigital" means "having equal digits," and it has a better ring to it than other possibilities I considered. When you're making a new word, you have to make sure it's catchy and pronounceable, after all!

So, happy 3rd equidigital birthday to me! I can't think of any better present than a brand-new word!

*Another reason this year is momentous is that I'm exactly half the age of my dad! That only happens once in a lifetime!