numbers The anaesthetist

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The Independent Online
Today is the 29th of June.

Twenty-nine is the number of days in February in a leap year and the number of letters in "flocci-naucinihilipilification" - which was the longest word in the Oxford Dictionary until someone - evidently a Mary Poppins fan - added supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Sir Walter Scott used flocci-naucinihilipilification in his Journal in 1829, though in the form with a "p" instead of "n" as its seventh letter. It means the act of estimating as worthless. For example, deriding those who argue against the separation of church and state is the floccinaucinihilipilification of antidisestablishmentarianism. Walter Scott's use of the word may be linked to a fondness for the number 29 as seen in these lines from "The Lay of the Last Minstrel":

Nine-and-twenty knights of fame

Hung their shields in Branksome Hall;

Nine-and-twenty squires of name

Brought them their steeds to bower from stall;

Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall

Waited duteous on them all.

Twenty-nine is also:

The average length in feet of the human intestine;

The bones in the skull;

The percentage of the world's pears that are grown in China.

COMPETITION: More of our "26 L of the A" (Letters of the alphabet) style. Three Chambers Thesaurus prizes for correct answers opened on 10 July. Entries to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

1 M M is A M P

8 M a-M

9 M M

26 M in a M

1609 M in a M

15 June answers and prizes:

2 Finger in a Rude Gesture; 4 July American Independence Day; 9 Of The Best; 8 Notes In An Octave; 10 Sixty-Six and All That. (alternatives: 2 Fifteens in a Rugby Game; 6 Over the Boundary). Prizes: Mrs J Johns, Valerie Ottewill; Michael Hoskins.