Saturday, 17 May 2014

Cipher - Code Zero


Noun. Also cypher. Late Middle English.
[Old French cif(f)re (modern chiffre) from medieval Latin cif(e)ra partly through Italian cifra,
obsolete cifera from Arabic sifr. Compare with ZERO noun & adjective. Branch II perhaps a different word.]

Branch I
1(a) An arithmetical symbol, o, of no value by itself,
but used to occupy a vacant place in decimal etc. numeration. LME

1(b) figurative. A person who or thing which fills a place but is of no importance; a nonentity. L16

2(a) A numeral; especially an arabic numeral. LME

2(b) obsolete. A symbolic character; a hieroglyph; an astrological sign. M16-M19

3 A secret or disguised system of writing, a code used in writing;
a message etc. so written; a key to such a system. E16

3(b) In plural. Shorthand. M16-M17

4 An interlacing of letters, especially the initials of a name; a monogram. M16

Branch II
5 A continuous sounding of an organ-pipe owning to a mechanical defect. L18

The name of my secret society
When I was about 8 years old, I was one of the founding members of a (now defunct) secret society consisting of me, my best friend and my dog. The above is an example of the cipher we used to communicate top secret messages and, while it might not have been as sophisticated as, say, the Enigma machine, to the best of my knowledge none of our communications were ever compromised (which is more that can be said of the ... pff ... Enigma machine).

There's a free Lexicolatry t-shirt to the first person that can tell me the name of my secret society.
(if, y'know, you have loads of time on your hands or are familiar with the code)

Do please leave your most enigmatic comments in the box below.


  1. I did break the code but just to make doubly sure I currently have your friend and dog being brutally interrogated by my evil henchmen in my secret underground bunker. THE ENGLISH SPY COMMUNITY - were the last words your dog barked I'm afraid MWAHAHAHA........

    1. Nuts. I knew I should have put something in small print about not interrogating former members, all of which might be true seeing as that dog ran away, never to be seen again, and I haven't spoken to that best friend in about 15 years.

      Anyway, seeing as I didn't, you can let them go and well done! You broke the code, as my secret society was indeed called The English Spy Community. If you'd like to collect your prize of a Lexicolatry t-shirt (which I'm now in the process of hastily designing), email or tweet me your deets and I'll have it sent out to you.

      Lexicolatry's first ever competition winner. You know GCHQ are currently running a competition for codebreakers, don't you? You can put this on your CV if you apply : o )