July 03, 2004

Voynich and midfix

The July Scientific American has a feature on the Voynich Manuscript, by Gordon Rugg, whose work we mentioned back in January.

His theory is that the manuscript is a hoax, created by using a Cardan grille,

... which was introduced by Italian mathematician Girolamo Cardano in 1550. It consists of a card with slots cut in it. When the grille is laid over an apparently innocuous text produced with another copy of the same card, the slots reveal the words of the hidden message. I realized that a Cardan grille with three slots could be used to select permutations of prefixes, midfixes and suffixes from a table to generate Voynichese-style words. [emphasis added]

I haven't ever seen the term midfix before -- linguists talk about infixes, but Rugg means something a little different. We usually have in mind a system where a stem is combined with various affixes, which might be prefixes, suffixes, or infixes. But Rugg's hypothesis has no stem/affix distinction, just a simple grammar of "one from column A, then one from column B, then one from column C".

It does seem that midfix is more widely used in system-administration and similar contexts: (link) "The namespace filename has a prefix, midfix and suffix".


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 3, 2004 10:42 AM

Absogoddamnlutely right.

Posted by: Theophylact at July 3, 2004 02:55 PM

Not much more widely used.

I have been doing systems administration on a professional level for more than 20 years now, and only encountered the term "midfix" for the first time a few days ago when I read the Rugg article in SciAm.

Posted by: Rich Alderson at July 4, 2004 01:30 PM