## Puzzle 6

#### John Baez

Q: Which famous buildings were named after a form of food -
or was it the other way around?

A: The pyramids. The ancient Greeks used the word "pyramid" both for
the Egyptian
pyramids and to a kind of cake made out of roasted wheat.
It appears that when the Greeks went to Egypt, they gave the
buildings this name because they were
shaped like the cake. (Some argue it was the other way around,
but that wouldn't be so interesting.)

Source: Steven Schwartzman, *The Words of Mathematics*,
Mathematical Association of America, Washington DC, 1994.

The 1970 *Encyclopaedia Brittanica* is more cautious:

The ancient Egyptian term for pyramid is *mer*. The English word
pyramid comes from the Greek *pyramid*, plural *pyramides*,
a word of doubtful etymology that was thought to have been derived from the
ancient Egyptian *per-em-us*, a term used in a mathematical papyrus to
denote the vertical height of a pyramid. A purely Greek word *pyramis*
means "wheaten cake", and a vague resemblance in shape may have
prompted early Greeks to use it as a facetious designation of the
celebrated Egyptian monuments.

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