A picture = 1000 words —- not quite

Well an old saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, the all powerful Manish Bhagat and me were having a discussion in class and we concluded that a picture is not worth a 1000 words after all.

Based on our extensive worldly knowledge, we figured that a picture is only worth 817 words, which is 183 short of the magical figure of 1000 that most people insist that a picture is worth. Facts, rationale for our reasoning are presented below.

The original quotation went something like “Cheeang ching bing bling bling, nee hao maa, aaso” considering that it was all in Chinese and loosely translated into English (by Frederick R. Barnard in Printer’s Ink, 8 Dec 1921) meant “a picture paints a 1000 words.” However, Manish and me went back to Biblical times back to good ol’ Babylon of yore which was ruled by Hammurabi during its glory days.

Now Hammurabi being the grand ol’ King that he was, wanted to do something to immortalise himself in the history of the world. He wanted to do something that the generations to come would talk about, and probably have coffee table discussions about. Considering that coffee beans had not reached that part of the world when he was ruling, one could call him extremely far-sighted. To stop digressing, the moment he decided that he wanted to do something like this, one of the first things that popped into his head was to build a vegetable garden. Not just any vegetable garden, but one that would be large enough to supply veggies and greens to his 183 wife strong harem of wonderful women. More about his fetish for vegetarianism later.

Now that the grand ol’ King had made his wishes public, his faithful began conceptualising this wonderful garden, which ultimately resulted in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Since Hammurabi wanted to dedicate these gardens to his wonderful wives (183 in number), he had their names etched on various parts of these gardens.

Moving on, when the Chinese hordes under Emperor Ming III of the Ming dynasty rode his horses to Babylon, which basically was the result of a navigation mistake due to a faulty sundial, saw these gardens, his involuntary reaction was “Cheeang ching bing bling bling, nee hao maa, aaso”. But then, he failed to notice the 183 names spread across the gardens due to the fact that the gardens hadn’t been cleaned in a while when he arrived. Consequently, when Frederick Barnard translated the Great Ming’s exclamation, he coined the phrase “a picture paints a 1000 words” when the picture actually accounted only for 817 words.

English historians should be more careful when they come up phrases like these, which are both historically and mathematically inaccurate. They have caused immeasurable damage to both history and to the great legacy of Hammurabi by goofing up on something as silly as a number.



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