[Ads-l] antedating (?) of milli-helen

Pete Morris mr_peter_morris at OUTLOOK.COM
Sat May 1 14:08:33 EDT 2021


Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships"

As a (non-serious) unit of measurement,
1 Helen = beauty that would launch 1000 ships,
1 milli-helen = beauty that would launch 1 ship.

Wiki has some discussion of the origin.  There is a suggestion that 
Isaac Asimov invented the term in 1940s as a graduate student, but this 
is unproven AFAIK.

Previous discussion on ADS listserv has a 1958 source.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2011-June/110123.html




Here is a fragmentary cite from Punch in what seems to be 1954.  Usual 
caveats about Google dates apply. But 1955/6 are mentioned as future 
dates within the document.

https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Punch/TbYSAAAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=millihelen&dq=millihelen&printsec=frontcover

<< ... ophy, who calls it a Helen. and explains that it is divisible 
into milli-helens.  It is hoped that the millihelen .... >>

The fragment doesn't say for sure  that it is used as a unit of beauty, 
but it's a reasonable conclusion. It would still be interesting if if 
had a different definition.


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