I have great sympathy for the numbers nine and 11. Why? Because of where they come in the scheme of things; the arithmetic scheme that is.
And where do they come? BEFORE and AFTER. Before and after the all-round, ever popular number 10. Ten is undoubtedly the number to be. Ten is where it’s all at. We have 10 fingers, 10 toes and 10 Commandments. We have Top 10s, 10 Green Bottles and once upon a time 10 fags (but not anymore) We’ve got 10 Pin Bowling and, of course, 10 Downing Street.
And who can forget a decade of the rosary (who remembers it?) Ten is IT. Our entire metric system is based on the number 10.
Pity then, poor nine and 11. Why they’re practically nobodys when it comes to the world of numbers.
Who knows who lives in 9 Downing Street - or 11 for that matter? And did you ever hear of the Top Nine of anything? Or the 11 Commandments? And who ever bought a packet of nine cigarettes?
No one, that’s who.
Nine and 11, oddballs along with being odd. They are the poor relations of arithmetic. It must be difficult spending one’s life in the shadow of the number 10.
Ten, whose first cousins include the glamorous 100s, 1000s and, of course, the millionaires. Ever hear tell of a nine hundred thousandaire? You did not. And you never will. And did you ever hear of a 99 Euro note? Or an 1,100 one? You did not and you never will. ‘Win up to €10,000 instantly’, that’s what it says on those Lotto Scratch Cards. It never says: ‘Win up to €9000 instantly or ‘Win up to €11,000 instantly’.
And it won’t. They just don’t sound the same. They don’t have that sense of chic that 10 and its well-rounded relations possess.
Poor old nine and 11, how do they cope at all? Especially when every other number seems to have a status of its own.
Take one for instance. An oddball too but what an oddball. Prim and proper and unique unto itself, one is up three on a pedestal, out on its own. One is tops. Numero Uno. There’s only one Packie Bonner and one God. Two is a nice, well-rounded number. Two, as they say, is company. We’ve got ‘Two Little Boys’, ‘Two Little Dickybirds’ and Twosomes. Twosomes are what have us all here on the planet, all seven billion of us! Matches have two halves, records (remember them?) have two sides and, of course, we have U2.
As for the number three – well three damn near rivals 10 in popularity. Consider the Three Musketeers, the Three Stooges, the Three Wise Men, the Three Sisters, not to mention the Three Tenors. There’s also Faith, Hope and Charity, Sun, Moon and Stars, Beginning, Middle and End, Tom, Dick and Harry and God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Three is decidedly special.
Four, first cousin of two, is equally well-rounded and evenly balanced. Consider the Four Gospels, the four Masters, the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Four Aces, a lucky four-leaf clover, the Fab Four and sure none of us would have a roof over our heads without four walls!
As for five, well five is ‘well got’, as they say, being a half-brother (or sister) of 10, so to speak. We have five fingers on one hand, five toes on one foot, we have five senses, five card stud, ‘gimme five’, ‘take five’ and ‘back in five’.
Six is sound. Solid. I mean where would we be without six packs or the old half dozen eggs? Seven is one of the superior numbers. And understandably so. After all the world was made in seven days, there are seven wonders of the world, seven sacraments, seven graces, seven days in the week, the seven ages of man and the dangerous seven-year itch.
Eight is a pet number. It also happens to be many people’s lucky number though I have no idea why. Everything seems to start at eight – bingo, bridge, the theatre, cinema, AGMs, EGMs and couples tend to rendezvous at eight. Creation, I have no doubt, commenced at 8 (am) on a Monday morning way back in God’s time.
Which brings me back to poor old nine and 11and their lacklustre status. The emergency number 999 is about the height of fame, and infamy, for nine, and who wants to be synonymous with trouble and strife and panic and alarm? As for 11 – well there are 11 players on a soccer team and hockey team, some, but not much, compensation there. Finally, and just to make matters worse for 9 and 11, then came the terrifying tragedy of 9/11.