The bema was the distance between successive steps and was roughly two and a half feet.1

 

These human pedometers were called bematists2 and were able to stay within 1/100 of a bema with each step!3

 

It is a persistent legend that Eratosthenes4 (276 BC – 194 BC) hired bematists to measure the distance from Alexandria to Syene as part of his famous effort to determine the size of the Earth5.

 

The Romans, in contrast to the Greeks, defined a pace (Latin passus) as the distance that would bring a land surveyor (Latin agrimensore) back to the same foot (i.e. roughly five feet)6.

 

Pari passu7,8 is now used as a legal phrase with the general meaning of “on equal footing”.

 

But that is okay as there is a word for such invented linguistic miscegenations – it’s called macaronic9.

 

And as any Italian restaurateur will tell you, the best way to top off a meal of macaroni like this is with a slice of pari passu, that delicious Italian dessert made with mascarpone cheese10.

 

But then that would be a malapropism and that’s another story altogether 11.

 

  1.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_units_of_measurement

  2.   Online Oxford English Dictionary at http://dictionary.oed.com/

  3.   http://www.fig.net/pub/athens/papers/wshs1/WSHS1_1_Lelgemann.pdf

  4.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes

  5.   http://astrosun2.astro.cornell.edu/academics/courses//astro201/eratosthenes.htm

  6.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_units_of_measurement

  7.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pari_passu

  8.   http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pari_passu

  9.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macaronic_language

10.   http://www.heavenlytiramisu.com/

11.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapropism