right hand pointing


  from the editor




I thought this might be a good time to have a look at the Statistically Improbable Phrases of the holy books of three major world religions.  No offense if I don't get to your personal favorite.

In case you haven't run across the phrase "statistically improbable phrases" (which, of course, IS a statistically improbable phrase), know that it is a system developed by Amazon.com to compare some of the books they index and find phrases in each that are the most unlikely to be found in any other book indexed.  I'm not sure how useful it is, but it does creates some interesting results.  Let's have a look at three pretty important books.

The Holy Qu'ran
(translated by Allamah Nooruddin and Abdul Mannan)

exact right path
woeful punishment
purifying dues
human being like yourselves
punishment overtook
fiery natured
cried lies
observe prayer
plain warner
water from the clouds
disbelieving people
perfect praise
raised couches
sperm drop
wrongdoing people
protecting friend
associated partners
grievous punishment
firm mountains
cannot frustrate
previous scriptures
day woe
excellent deeds
vie one
believing women

Here we have an edition of the Torah (Henry Holt and Co.; 1st American Ed edition, 1997)

thy valuation
lobe above the liver
one silver dish
fine flour mingled with oil
puttest thy hand
skilfully woven band
one young bullock
stranger that sojourneth
two sockets under one board
weight thereof
furniture thereof
thou shalt overlay
unclean unto
golden pan
covereth the inwards
fine twined linen
two sockets under another board
thou shalt rejoice
blood thereof
skillful workman
fifth part thereof
whosoever toucheth
thou shalt set
shalt present
hath sinned

And, finally, these are from the Jerusalem Bible, a popular translation of the scriptures employed by Christians (Old Testament and New Testament.)

golden bowl weighing ten shekels
accompanying oblation
appeasing fragrance
five male yearling lambs
stout fighting men
perpetual holocaust
silver bowl weighing
sackcloth round
crimson stuffs
fourteen yearling lambs
angel emptied
communion sacrifice
capitals surmounting
sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels
filthy practices
purple stuffs
perpetual law
twined linen
ash containers
violet shade
fatty mass
silver sockets
sprinkling bowls
eternal sovereignty
incense boats

You know, I've got a master's degree in theology and I've taken world religion courses.  How did I miss these gems?  Does it strike  you as odd that a software system pulled out this beautiful stuff?  Why do you suppose the most statistically improbable phrases are almost all beautiful? ("associated partners" is an exception I guess.  I think that's what they call employees at WalMart.) 

Taking three consecutive phrases from the Qu'ran list you get:

firm mountains
cannot frustrate
previous scriptures

Like much scripture--and much poetry I have no idea what it means but it strikes me as profoundly true anyway, even consisting, as it does, of three disjointed phrases.   

From The Jerusalem Bible:

crimson stuffs
fourteen yearling lambs
angel emptied

I don't remember if the angel was emptied or if the angel emptied something but, either way, "angel emptied" may be the title of your next book.

I hope you enjoy Issue 13 of Right Hand Pointing.  As a reminder, we're still reading for Issue 14, Very Short Poetry.  For this issue, we're only taking poems coming in at 50 words or less.  And, I'm already reading and taking some work for Issue 15.  You can always check the status of projects by clicking here.

Happy New Year!  I'm off to admire the
sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels I got for Christmas.

Happy New Year!  Let 2007>2006.


you got to have a mother for me

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business


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