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

David Daniel dad at COARSECOURSES.COM
Sat May 1 21:24:55 UTC 2021

I never heard of a mili-helen, but when I was in school (USC-Troy-Trojans)
in the late sixties, the deal was "If Helen of Troy launched a thousand
ships, then..." It started there and went down to one leaky rowboat, and
then to "the leaky rowboat turned around an went home."

-----Mensagem original-----
De: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] Em nome de Pete
Enviada em: sábado, 1 de maio de 2021 15:09
Assunto: antedating (?) of milli-helen

Poster:       Pete Morris <mr_peter_morris at OUTLOOK.COM>
Subject:      antedating (?) of milli-helen

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

As a (non-serious) unit of measurement,
1 Helen =3D beauty that would launch 1000 ships,
1 milli-helen =3D 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.


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.


<< ... 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.

This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list