Q: "portagraion" -- a "mathematical instrument" circa 1745?

James Landau jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Feb 10 23:06:30 UTC 2006

Two more responses from the Historia Matematica mailing list:

     ****  response 1  *****

Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2006 15:27:55 +0100
From: venedem <ud.venedem at wanadoo.fr>
Subject: Re: [HM] "portagraion" -- a "mathematical instrument" circa 1745?

Apparently, it is quoted from an old catalogue of instruments, and it
comes just after "drawing Pens". My suggestion is "portagraion" could
mean "Porte-crayon", that is a box to keep various pens. Have a amused
look at


Udai Venedem

[Udai Venedem is a French rare book dealer, specializing I believe in
mathematical books]

     **** response 2 ****
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 10:17:53 +0100 (MEZ)
From: Heinz Lueneburg <luene at mathematik.uni-kl.de>
Subject: Re: [HM] "portagraion" -- a "mathematical instrument" circa 1745?

I asked a friend about the portagraion. He thinks that it is a miss-spelling
of the word "porte-crayon". The porte-crayon used to be part of cases of
drawing utensils.
Porte-crayon = holder of drawing material whatever you used in 1745.

Heinz Lueneburg


On to another topic.  Someone (I have lost the message and cannot find it
in the archives) asked if the cigarette foil made by Anaconda Aluminum were
an alloy and if so did it contain lead.  My recollection is that Anaconda
sold cigarette foil in at least three different alloys.  I have no idea
what metals went into the alloys, but I'm sure aluminum made up the bulk of
the material.

I should point out that someone who is seriously worried about radiation
should wear not a lead helmet but a lead LOINCLOTH.

The use of the word "tin" to mean generic thin sheet metal appears to go
back to at least 1812, that being the date in MWCD11 for "tinsmith":  "a
worker who makes or repairs things of sheet metal (as tinplate)"

     - James A. Landau

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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