Last night I went with some friends to see the film, Life of Pi. Rather annoyingly for bespectacled me, we saw the 3D version, but despite spending the majority of the film battling with the 3D glasses (I eventually took them off completely), I found myself wondering about the name of the main character.
The film does spend a reasonable amount of time near the beginning of the film explaining the name of the title character. Suffice to say, Pi’s full name is Piscine Molitor Patel, and he was indeed named after a swimming pool in Paris. Come secondary school, he changes his name to Pi after being teased about his name. Interestingly, Pi has a brother with the much less out-there name of Ravi.
For those struggling, the French word piscine translates to swimming pool in English, whilst Molitor is just a name for the swimming pool; thus, if Pi were named after a swimming pool in London, he’d maybe have been called St. George’s Swimming Pool Patel.
Piscine Molitor is an actual place, alternatively known as Piscines Auteuil-Molitor and Grands établissements balnéaires d’Auteuil. It was built in 1929, and is noted for it’s art deco design. Despite being closed and abandoned in 1989, it was classified as a French Monument Historique in 1990 (sort of in the way we have listed buildings here in the UK). These days it is on the receiving end of a restoration, which should see it reopen circa 2014.
The name Molitor means miller, and is more often seen as a surname rather than a first name. There is a station on the Paris Métro called Michel-Ange-Molitor, opened in 1913 and named for the two nearby roads – Rue Michel-Ange and Rue Molitor. A fun fact for you all is that roads in France are commonly named after notable (and usually French) people and I can, for example, say that I’ve seen at least two Rue Jean-Jacques which were named for philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rue Molitor is probably named for a Marshal of France, Gabriel-Jean-Joseph Molitor
The number Pi, Π, is a mathematical constant which has it’s own special holiday on the 14th March because if you write that date as month/day you get 3/14 and of course Pi is usually rounded to simply 3.14. The constant is usually used in geometry, especially in relation to circles and spheres as Pi can be defined as being the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. Indeed, in the film the character of Pi becomes known for being able to recite numerous digits of his namesake.