When you get tired of using your calculator for numbers, why not use it for words?


Every schoolchild (and former schoolchild) has played around with typing numbers on a calculator, turning it so the display screen is upside down and giggling at the (usually rude) word spelled out. These words are called beghilos, named for the only letters you can make out of numbers on a standard calculator: b from 8, e from 3, g from 6, h from 4, i or l from 1, o from 0, and s from 5. Some variations use a 2 as Z and o as a capital D.

Using the traditional beghilos, there are over 200 possible words, although some of them are a bit rubbish like GI ( a martial arts uniform) and GHOLE (an anarchic term for ghoul, but sounds like it should be something else).

I wonder what this number is in balanced ternary

More fun ones are SHELL, LOOSE, IGLOO and the ever-classic HELLO. Typing 7734206 gives GO2HELL, a great way to intimidate your enemies with your mathematical prowess. If instead you wish to make love not war, and the person you want to make love to is an Italian man, try sending them 0.7738135, or if you wish to be more direct 0.5535. Please note that whilst you can type GOOGLE into your calculator, your calculator can’t actually function as Google. Interestingly, typing “calculator” into Google does allow Google to function as a calculator but you don’t need to turn your computer screen upside-down for this.

The best, of course, are the holy trinity of BOOBIES, BOOBS and BOOBLESS. The last one was taught to me as a story by my friend Alex, which I will share with you below:

“A 13-year old girl goes to the doctor. She explains that she has 84 boobs and she wants 45. The doctor says oh, take these pills 2 times a day, but she took them 4 and ended up…” and at this point Alex and I would turn our calculators upside down and giggle at the result like the immature tweenagers we were.

A prime example beghilo

If you want to be a bit more mathematical about the whole thing—this is a maths blog after all—here are some beghilos that are also prime: EEL, EELBOB, EH, ELIGIBLES, I, ILLEGIBLE, ISOGLOSS, LEE, LIBELS, LIE, LOSES, and LOSS

Finally, there is the beghilo sent in to Live & Kicking. It’s a bit of a cheat, but if you type 7708302 into your calculator and turn it upside down, I promise you the results will be well worth it.

Alison is a medical student at King’s College London.

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