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A blivet, also known as a poiuyt, devil's fork or widget, is an undecipherable figure, an optical illusion and an impossible object. It appears to have three cylindrical prongs at one end which then mysteriously transform into two rectangular prongs at the other end.


Paradoxical graphic figure

In its most common usage, the blivet is an indecipherable figure, illustrated above. It appeared on the March 1965 cover [1] of Mad magazine, where it was dubbed the "Three-Pronged Poiuyt" (the last six letters on the top row of many Latin-script typewriter keyboards, right to left), and has appeared numerous times since then. An anonymously-contributed version described as a "hole location gauge" was printed in the June 1964 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the comment that "this outrageous piece of draftsmanship evidently escaped from the Finagle & Diddle Engineering Works" (although there is a patent on that [2])

The graphic artist M. C. Escher used these types of figures as the basis for impossible three-dimensional compositions in many of his woodcut prints.

In December 1968 American optical designer and artist Roger Hayward wrote "Blivets: Research and Development" for The Worm Runner's Digest in which he presented interpretations of the blivet.[3]

Military usage

In traditional U.S. Army slang dating back to the Second World War, a blivet was defined as "ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag" (a proverbial description of anything egregiously ugly or unmanageable); it was applied to an unmanageable situation, a crucial but substandard or damaged tool, or a self-important person. In Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, Rawlins defines a blivet as "10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag". During the Vietnam War, a heavy rubber bladder in which aviation fuel or POL (petroleum, oil, and lubricants) was transported was known as a blivet, as was anything which, once unpacked, could not be replaced in its container. The usage of blivet for a fuel container is still current. A recent request for quotation ('Solicitation number W91B4P-07-Q-0615 titled "Fuel Point Bill of Materials"') in Afghanistan includes a line item for "10 50,000 gal. blivets".

In various United States Air Force communities (e.g. Strategic Air Command), blivet may have referred to what are euphemistically called "Special Weapons" whose presence are officially neither confirmed nor denied. Usage apparently derived from the original cavalry definition.

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