Piem: A mnemonic device for learning the digits of pi; a sort of poem—piem is a portmanteau of pi and poem—in which pi’s digits are represented by the number of letters in each word.
In “Try to Remember,” a Talk of the Town piece about pi in the April 4, 2011, New Yorker, Calvin Trillin writes:
The best-known piem renders the first fifteen digits of pi as “How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics.” Piems are unwieldy for the longer distances.
Piems are one sub-specialty of a discipline known as piphilology (a blend of pi and philology, the study of languages). The Wikipedia entry on piphilology gives pi-memorizing devices in 15 languages other than English, including this one in Irish:
Níl i mata, a shaoi, eolaíocht nó feidhm. (“Wise one, mathematics has neither science nor use.”)
A section on pi memorization on the Ludism.org* site gives several other examples in English, including one that starts “May I have a large container of coffee?”
I regret not having timed this word of the week to coincide with Pi Day, March 14 (aka 3.14, but only in the US, where dates are customarily written in the month-day-year format). However, today, 4.4, is a semi-Square Root Day (the next true Square Root Day won’t occur until 4.4.16), and that’s math-y enough for me.
* Ludism is either “a conscious embrace of the play drive as creator of meaning”—see a previous word of the week, ludology—or, according to the Uncyclopedia, “a quickly growing religion based on the teachings of the Grand High One, Ludacris,” whose followers are known as Ludites.