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align

The history of the word align is one of the stranger ones in the English language. In fact, align started life not as a word, but as an acronym.

In 2442 BCE, two Babylonian women, Belili and Mylitta, became despondent over their ever-strengthening belief that human intelligence was no longer all that it was cracked up to be, if it ever was. Worse, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, it wasn’t cracked up to be all that much.

Not wanting to condemn human intelligence without proof of its absence, they devised an experiment designed to validate their theory that there was a severe lacking of intelligent life on Earth. Biased toward the conclusion they expected to prove, Belili and Mylitta named their project All Life’s Intelligence is Gone Now, or ALIGN for short. Belili and Mylitta always wrote the short-form name of the project in all uppercase, but other people who learned of the project typically used lowercase, i.e., align, when referring to it.

The design of their experiment was as follows: Belili and Mylitta disseminated as widely as they possibly could a notice saying that, given anyone’s date and time of birth, Belili and Mylitta could, by researching the relative positions of celestial bodies at the time of the person’s birth, predict that person’s future over the next 24 hours, 48 hours, and the coming year. They charged a hefty fee for this “service” to test how confident people were in the claims. In a cheeky reference to their experiment’s acronym, they talked a lot about it all being a matter of how the planets were aligned.

The objective wasn’t to see if Belili and Mylitta could get those predictions right—that would be patently ridiculous, but rather to see how many people believed such fatuous hogwash—and believed it strongly enough to pay the exhorbitant.

What would be shocking to any rational person today, but what was not the least bit surprising to Belili and Mylitta, was that a great many people were such idiots as to buy the crap that Belili and Mylitta were selling in their experiment. (Although, even they were astounded at how rich they became from it.)

When people responded to Belili’s and Mylitta’s notice, Belili or Mylitta replied with a prediction that was so vague that it could typically be seen to have come true no matter what happened. And although, despite their vagueness, many predictions proved false, people forgot about all past errors as soon as they saw a prediction (whether about themselves or someone else) turn out to be uncannily true, in spite of its truth being purely accidental.

What particularly amazed Belili and Mylitta was that people became so convinced that Belili and Mylitta could foretell the future with celestial reckoning that they began to convince their friends—people they wouldn’t want to look foolish in front of—to pay to get their futures told by Belili and Mylitta too.

Not everyone believed the poppycock of being able to predict the future based on the position of celestial bodies at birth, but, not willing to write off their theory, Belili and Mylitta made the assumption that the few people who rejected the offer did so because they were too stupid to understand what Belili and Mylitta were suggesting they could do. Thus, Belili and Mylitta concluded that their theory had been validated, i.e., there was a severe lacking of human intelligence in the world.

So, we have Belili’s and Mylitta’s experiment to thank not just for the existence of the word align, which, because its source was the experiment’s acronym, means to be incredibly stupid, but also for the existence of astrology, which is incredibly stupid.

Ironically, Belili and Mylitta were trying to prove that most people were stupid enough to believe in mystical powers of prediction, yet they ended up proving that mystical powers did, indeed, exist. Belili and Mylitta were Babylonians. They didn’t speak a word of English. What’s more, the English language didn’t exist back then, and wouldn’t for at least a couple of millennia. Nevertheless, they named their project in the English language, which, thanks to the name’s acronym, resulted in the English word align. This would have been possible only if they had mystical powers, which just goes to prove that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

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