Rubaiyat mnemonics … some untested ground
One of the first attempts by the language boffins to decipher the lines of capital letters making up the Rubaiyat code was to see – in a menmonic sense – if they fitted any of the Rubaiyat quatrains. I remember them having a problem with the letter Q as it apparently doesn’t occur in the Fitzgerald edition. But that’s not to say the code doesn’t fit into an edition printed in another language that uses both the Roman script and loanwords*.
Latin or Roman is the official script for nearly all the languages of Western Europe and of some Eastern European languages. It is also used by some non-European languages such as Turkish, Vietnamese, Malay language, Somali, Swahili and Tagalog. It is an alternative writing system for languages such as Serbian and Bosnian. Wikipedia
So – Taking Verse 1 in the Fitzgerald edition.
(1) Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night (8 words)
(2) Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: (10 words)
(3) And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught (9 words)
(4) The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light. (8 words)
And comparing it to the same verse written in Turkish using a web-based translator –
(1) Uyanık! Kase Gece Sabahı için (5 words)
(2) Yıldızları Uçuran Taşı fırlattı: (4 words)
(3) Ve lo! Doğu Avcısı yakaladı (5 words)
(4) Aydınlık İlçede Sultanın Kulesi. (4 words)
Then by juxtaposing both of these to the Rubaiyat code – on the assumption that line 2 has been corrected and re-written as line 3 – we can compare apples with apples, numerically speaking.
Line 1 – 9 letters
Line 2 – 11 letters
Line 3 – 11 letters
Line 4 – 13 letters
That’s the basic data.
The first thing evident is that all three examples comprise four lines, as does every quatrain in the Rubaiyat.
The second is that what takes 8 words to write in English in some instances only takes 5 to write in Turkish (Line 1)
Where this may lead us is to (1) make a blind stab at the Somerton Man’s foreign origins, and (2) see if the Rubaiyat is published in that language.
Failing that, we might deduce he was an English speaker testing his memory of a particular quatrain written in another language.
After all, Harkness gave Boxall a dual language edition and who’s to say Alf didn’t try to learn the odd quatrain in Malay if only to impress some of the Crusader crew over a quiet jar in an Ambon bar.
*a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification.