**By John Hertz**: Book dealer, Regency dance teacher, and wise guy Marty Massoglia at Loscon XLI (November 28-30) showed me this formula:

(12 + 144 + 20) + 3 ? 4 ÷ 7 + 5 x 11 = 9^{2} + 0

and then read it out, “A dozen, a gross, and a score, plus three times the square root of four, divided by seven, plus five times eleven, is nine squared, and not a bit more.” I thought it worthy of him, since he had earlier explained how a poem cut into a tree can reveal how old the tree is — just scan the bark ode. But he said he’d heard it from his daughter Mariel McKinley. She told me she hadn’t made it, only found it. And you thought “mundify” must mean “make mundane”!

Aside from the fact that the square-root (or “radical”) symbol, √, is here accidentally rendered as a question mark, the equation is incorrect if one uses conventional operator precedence. The closing parenthesis should be moved over so that it’s after the 3√4. Otherwise the value of the left-hand side of the equation is 231 6/7, and as written there’s no point in parenthesizing the initial sub-expression.

(12 + 144 + 20 + 3√4) ÷ 7 + 5 x 11 = 9² + 0

http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/mayhem.htm attributes this limerick to Leigh Mercer, who is also credited with the well-known palindrome about the Panama canal.

The code you used displays correctly in comments. In the editing screen WordPress will display either that code, or the square symbol from its own menu, correctly — but once the post is saved, the symbol reverts to a question mark. A bug that needs fixing?

Where is my old HP 80 calculator with its RPN notation?

John Hertz suggests this graphical work-around:

(12 + 144 + 20) + 3*(SQRT**4) / 7 + 5*11 = 9

^{2}+ 0John’s “workaround” still has the parenthesization wrong, because it reduces to

176 + 6/7 + 55, when it should be (176 + 6)/7 + 55