Geometry Is What Done It

Anonymous | published 1952

added Jun 9, 2024
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First Date of Publication
1952
Original Source
Who Blowed Up the Church House? and Other Ozark Folk Tales
Original Source Type
Anthology
Medium
Short Story
Original Language
English
Kasman Review
Not in Kasman Database
ISFDB
Not in ISFDB
Tags
Summary: How visual geometrical estimation fails in front of a clever charlatan…

Story Tag Line: “If a man was solid meat clear through, says Tandy, a fellow could figure his height and girth and make a mighty close guess by geometry. “Geometry, my eye!” says a skinny little man. […] Tandy he studied the statue mighty careful. “There ain’t no regular shape to it,” says he. “Geometry can’t get a hold of a thing like that. You show me something that’s round, or square, or oblong—””

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Reviews

  • Vijay Fafat
    Published on

    A mildly funny short folktale about a hustler called Tandy Simpson. Tandy uses applied geometry as a ruse to sucker in some out-of-town folks who are given to gambling on odd things (like guessing people’s weights) to bet on estimating the weight of a cylindrical cannon.

    The lead up to the setting up the score unfolds as follows:

    “He says it aint possible to guess a person’s weight very accurate, because the human body is made of so many different kinds of stuff . If a man was solid meat clear through, says Tandy, a fellow could figure his height and girth and make a mighty close guess by geometry.
    […]
    Tandy studied the statue mighty careful. ‘There ain’t no regular shape to it’ says he. “Geometry can’t get a hold of a thing like that. You show me something that ‘s round , or square, or oblong—“. The skinny little fellow stopped him right there. “All right. Let’s see what geometry can do with that brass cannon.” Tandy studied the old gun mighty careful. That’s better,” says he “There’s something that geometry can sink her teeth into.”

    Tandy, of course, has no intention of using geometry or any other mode of analysis to win. All the talk is an elaborate sleight-of-attention to divert from the fact that he has already rigged the bet. In two different ways. So in the end, geometry loses the day and regular hucksterism wins.

    When I first read the story, I wished the author had included a little more of hand waving, some back-of-the-envelope calculation (even wrongly done one with impressive sounding words, which would make the ruse funnier) to give some more flesh to the idea. However, given that it is a folktale - I looked at it a little more leniently than the written work of a more modern author. The story is worth a smile.