No doubt the reader is familiar with the idea of a unit of measure for concrete, physical, externally observable phenomena. The gram measures the mass of an object; the liter measures the three-dimensional volume of an object by determining how much water it displaces. There are multiple systems of standardization to determine which units are used to describe a specific physical characteristic; the meter and the yard both define similar distances, for example, but they are from different systems.

Occasionally, writers will experience a need to quantify the degrees of difference between two different objects or entities, in regard to an abstract quality those things have, rather than a concrete quality. There is no true empirical way of establishing the metrics of beauty or cleverness, with current tools for measurement. "Pseudounits" have nonetheless been invented to explain several abstract concepts quantitatively, and I will demonstrate three of these here.

Helen: the unit of pulchritude

Possibly coined by Isaac Asimov, though no definite source has been determined, a "Helen" is the amount of beauty necessary to launch 1000 ships full of soldiers. This refers to the role of Helen of Troy during Homer's Iliad, who Christopher Marlowe called "the face that launched a thousand ships" due to her great beauty.

A millihelen (mh) is sufficient beauty to launch one Homeric warship. A negative Helen is sufficient ugliness to beach 1000 ships. It has been suggested by Irregular Webcomic! that it is an error to use the "milli-" prefix with Helens, as one should not confuse metric prefixes with Troy units.

Hume: the unit of reality

Coined by user Jekeled of the science fictional secret organization website SCP-Wiki, Humes are units used to describe comparative levels of "realness" between two adjacent environments. If, for example, I write a fictional story, then I have a greater degree of realness than the characters of my story. Likewise, if my characters are depicted writing a story within my story, that story experiences a subsequent lower degree of realness. Sapient beings with the ability to manipulate the degrees of realness in their environment are known as reality benders, with literal gods being the most extreme variety of reality bender. Whether a reality bender "sucks realness out of the vicinity" and uses that to impose their will by "injecting more realness" into their own actions and creations, or else inherently produces a higher degree of realness from within themselves, can determine how that reality bender gets classified on SCP-Wiki.

When a moment or location appears to be hyperreal, laden with greater weight and valence than its surroundings, it is said to have a high Hume concentration. The unit is named after philosopher David Hume, who discusses at length the nature of reality.

Cuil: the unit of abstraction

Coined in autumn of 2008 on reddit by user RedDyeNumber4, the Cuil is named after the search engine Cuil, which had failed in its stated goal to act as a replacement of Google... a goal which was considered so naive as to be removed altogether from reality. The term "Cuil" was used to describe anything that has departed from realism, or advanced in a "meta" fashion, one or more degrees of abstraction from the topic initially being described. The symbol for the Cuil is the interrobang, ‽

If, for example, I write a poem about a tree, the poem is 1‽ abstracted from the tree, in that it concerns the tree, but inherently is not the tree, and may use figurative language in its expression about the tree. If I then write a book in which the contents of the poem are reinterpreted to have meanings unrelated to the tree, such as by implying that the object of the poem is actually a person being figuratively described as a tree, then that book is 2‽ abstracted from the tree.

Due to the similarities to the pataphor and 'pataphysics, the Cuil and the Hume could respectively be considered the units best qualified to describe pataphorical expressions and 'pataphysical phenomena.

There are countless other abstract units of measure, most of them either anchored to countable physical phenomena, such as the Warhol being determined by "number of minutes one spends being famous," or else given no finite reference point other than the behaviour of one specific individual who is viewed by their peers as the archetype of that quality, such as the Pouter and the Lenat, both defined by their upward bound, and used in practice in smaller fractions: micropouters and microLenats.

Iron Noder 2017, 27/30

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