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Making Big Ones Out Of Small Ones

June 24, 2020

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. You can combine those letters into words, of course. How many words exist?

The Oxford English Dictionary is viewed as the definitive source for English words. It’s not your normal dictionary you have on your desk. In fact, the OED wouldn’t fit on your desk. Unless you had a very large desk. It’s a 20 volume set. The OED has 171,476 word definitions. Plus another 47,156 obsolete words. And another 9,500 derivative words.

Those words can be combined into books, of course. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It has 170 million books. (Probably not exactly 170,000,000, but somewhere in the neighborhood.

Google is a lot more exact. According to the Google advanced algorith 129,864,880 books have been published in all of modern history.

Maybe it’s like the OED and those 47,156 obsolete words. In any case there are over 4500 self published books every day. That’s in addition to the books published by the traditional publishing house. Then, you can think about how many copies of each book are printed.

  • 26 letters
  • 171,476 words
  • 170,000,000 books (I trust Library of Congress more than Google.)

Writing is the ultimate example of making big ones out of small ones.

We are expanding the patio in our backyard. Originally we thoguht about buying pavers. We don’t want another concrete slab. For one it’s not as pretty and we want to do the work ourselves.

First, we tried a 2’x3′ form. It had space for 6 various shaped bricks. But, there was almost an inch of space between each brick. We wanted more like a quarter of an inch.

So, instead we built our own form. Instead of six small bricks, we used 8′ long 2x4s and spacers to build a grid of sixteen 2’x2′ forms. We figure it will take about 35 squares to cover the area we need.

Did you know there’s a difference between cement and concrete? Cement comes in bags. Concrete is what you walk on. Cement is actually just one ingredient in concrete. You mix cement with sand and gravel. Then, you add water and air and if the mixture is just right, it hardens into concrete.

Sand. Gravel. Water. Air? You can’t get much smaller than that. And yet, from those small things, we get 2’x2′ squares, or sidewalks, or skyscrapers, or bridges that span canyons.

Like writing, it’s a matter of making big ones out of small ones.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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