Today at Futility Closet comes a report on the Mesembryanthemum:
The South African flower Mesembryanthemum draws its name from the Greek roots for middle, embryo, and flower. It’s believed to be the English word containing the highest “score” in Roman numerals — four Ms.
I have no quarrel with the first sentence but the second struck me as immediately improbable, because there are no other letters in Mesembryanthemum with a Roman numeral value so its total value is only 4000. I was immediately able to think of a couple that equal it – words that should be familiar to virtually anyone – and with a little searching was able to find a word that I knew and could define with a total of
4502 (Correction: 4602 – I should learn to add better). Can you find my word? More importantly, can you beat my word’s score?
Edit to add: The word is ‘IMMunoCoMproMIseD’, for a total of 4602, as one clever reader has discerned. This is just a game, of course, but there is a long tradition of Roman numeral chronograms in Europe, passages in which the sum of the Roman numerals gives a significant date. A multi-volume corpus of thousands of these was published in the 19th century and is practically begging for reanalysis – the inscriptions can be located and dated securely (Hilton 1882, 1885, 1895).
Hilton, James. 1882. Chronograms. London: Elliot Stock.
———. 1885. Chronograms Continued. London: Elliot Stock.
———. 1895. Chronograms Collected. London: Elliot Stock.