# Thread: the first number "one"

1. ## the first number "one"

Hi!
I wonder what the English think about the number "one". According to your opinions what the bad and lucky numbers are. Thanks alot

2. ## Re: the first number "one"

Number One is the Lonliest Number, a song by John Farnham.

In North America, the number 8 is considered lucky, or rather a popular favourite number. Its shape represents infinity. The number 7 is also lucky. It's made up of the numbers 3 and 4, which are the points of the triangle and the square, respectively - what the mathematician Pythagorous called (the only) pure forms. The number 13 is unlucky. It's origin, variation in moon cycles (months). Some years had an even 12, some had the odd 13. That extra number was odd, hence unlucky.

Read more here: http://www.answerbag.com/q_view.php/8315

3. ## Re: the first number "one"

(about number 13) Also, if I'm not wrong, Jesus was killed on friday and there were thirteen people in 'the last supper.' However, we have the 'baker's dozen'-13, which does not have any obvious negative meaning.

4. ## Re: the first number "one"

It's hard to say exactly where the origin of 13 as an unlucky number came from. The idea that it came from the Last Supper -- there were 13 people present, and one of them then betrayed Jesus -- is probably just a Christian interpretation, but the "unlucky 13" may be older than that.

The baker's dozen -- which is also 13 and not regarded as unlucky -- has a very different origin. One of the most popular theories is this: When you're baking by hand, it's very difficult to make every single bun or loaf of bread exactly the same size -- some will be smaller, some larger. This might lead to accusations of unfairness, so when somebody ordered a dozen (i.e. 12) buns, bakers would add an extra bun for free, just in case some of the buns were too small. Then people couldn't really complain.

Incidentally, the phrase "number one" refers to yourself, and is usually found in the phrase "looking after number one", meaning to take care of yourself. The origin of that phrase is, I think, Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist. Fagin, the leader of a gang of criminals, explains to a new recruit that everyone's priority was to look after "number one", which is himself. He then explains to the recruit that the way to look after himself was to look after Fagin, because then Fagin would look after him. Fagin skilfully turns things around, so that by the end of the conversation, he has convinced the new recruit that his -- the recruit's -- "number one" was Fagin.

5. ## Re: the first number "one"

The unlucky nature of Friday the 13th comes from the destruction of the Order of Templars, where sealed orders to arrest the members were opened on that date, or so I read.

6. ## Re: the first number "one"

tdol, Order of Templars, yes. The exact date, Friday, October 13, 1307. Ahem, I cheated. Info.com.

Reboss, you mentioned, 'but the "unlucky 13" may be older than that.' I came across a bit about Norse mythology: Loki at Valhalla. He arrived uninvited to a 12 guest dinner party. Similarities abound . . .

7. ## Re: the first number "one"

I don't know if it's coincidence, but 12 is a very useful number. It can be divided by 2, 3, 4 and 6, which is a good reason why we have 12 inches to the foot and twelve hours on the clock. 13, however, is a prime number; it cannot be divided by any number except itself and 1.

8. ## Re: the first number "one"

I was told that the reason we used units of twelve in some of the imperial system was that people counted with their thumb running down the knuckles of the fingers, giving a dozen.

9. ## Re: the first number "one"

No, it's simply the convenience of the number. Actually, most people either counted with their fingers (giving ten) or their fingers and toes (giving 20). That's why our counting system is based on 10, which is not a convenient number for division. The traditional Welsh counting system is based on 20 (the modern, and very ugly, system is based on 10), and there are still traces of that system in French.

Another multiplier for units of measure is 16, which again can be divided by several numbers. A quarter of a pound is 4 ounces, but a quarter of a kilo is an unwieldy 250g.

10. ## Re: the first number "one"

I've been reading a translation of Georges Ifrah's Historie Universelle Des Chiffres L'intelligence Des Hommes Racontee Par Les Nombres Et Le Calcul (wow, the name of the books seems as infinite as the numbers ). and it's a great source to understand the history of numbers and the logic behind different systems. Somewhere he says, there are some cultures who only have 1,2 and more (as counting numbers).

Page 1 of 2 1 2

#### Posting Permissions

• You may not post new threads
• You may not post replies
• You may not post attachments
• You may not edit your posts
•