Monday, May 10, 2010

40 - Forty - XL - Two Score

State Budget

40 Days Late

And $9B Short

By Henry J. Stern
May 10, 2010

The State of New York has now been without a budget for forty days. We have as yet seen no indication as to when a budget will be adopted by the state senate and the assembly that will be approved by the governor.

The continuing delay presents a serious problem to municipalities, counties and school districts now preparing their own budgets, which are dependent on state aid, the amount of which will not be determined until the state adopts its own budget.

Since there is nothing more we can do to speed the process, we decided to mark the occasion of the 40th day of legislative lateness by collecting some references to the number forty in history, literature and popular culture. We are certain that there are many others. You are invited to send us any that you know of which you believe deserve wider circulation. We thank Google and Wikipedia for a few of those listed below, but most come from our own life experience.

Forty days and forty nights -- the length of the deluge. Described in Genesis 7:12 "And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights."

Forty years -- the time the Hebrews spent in the wilderness after fleeing from Egypt across the Red Sea. Described in Exodus 16:35: "The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan."

Forty acres and a mule -- General William T. Sherman's Special Field Orders No. 15, January 16, 1865, "So that each family shall have a plot of not more than 40 acres of tillable ground…" Forty acres is one sixteenth of a square mile, which consists of 640 acres. A quarter section is 160 acres. The mules were not mentioned in the orders, but were given out to settlers because the Military Division of the Mississippi (of the Grand Army of the Republic) owned some animals which were no longer needed to carry supplies.

Forty (quarante) -- the number of days of isolation formerly required to prove the absence of illness. The word "quarantine" was derived from this time period.

Forty winks -- a brief nap.

Forty whacks -- what Lizzie Borden gave her mother with an axe in New Bedford, MA in 1892. Forty-one -- what she then gave her father. She was acquitted by a jury, which may have taken pity on her as an orphan. The axe was never found.

"Life Begins at 40" -- a self-help book by Walter Pitkin (1932), written to lift the spirits of middle-aged people. A widely used phrase in popular culture, and the title of a television series from Hong Kong. The age of 40 is now a threshold for lawsuits alleging age discrimination, usually in employment.

The 40-hour week was once an objective of organized labor, whose members were once required to work Saturdays. It is now considered burdensome by employees who have become accustomed to a 35-hour week, e.g. 9 to 5, with an hour off for lunch.

Minus 40 -- The temperature at which the Fahrenheit scale coincides with the Celsius (centigrade) scale. It is extremely cold.

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves -- The title character of this medieval Arabic story outwits a gang of thieves, thereby acquiring their treasure. A French scholar, Antoine Galland, included the tale in his translation of "One Thousand and One Nights."

Forty Thieves -- A 19th century New York street gang. They lived in the infamous Sixth Ward and operated out of the back room of a Centre Street grocery store. The phrase has also been used as a reference to the old Board of Aldermen, the predecessor legislative body to the City Council, which today has 51 members

Tomorrow, May 11, the state budget will be 41 days late. The main association we have with the prime number 41 is that it was the margin by which Ed Koch defeated Carmine DeSapio in a race for Democratic district leader in Greenwich Village in 1963. The outcome was eventually invalidated by the courts on the ground that the number of unintentional irregularities exceeded the margin between the candidates. A re-run was ordered for primary day in 1964, which Koch won by 164 votes.

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