The Ten Worst Numbers of All Time


1. 7

It’s the digit every lunatic howls for at the craps table until they’re down to their Kia pink slip, and then suddenly seven’s a stone cold pariah. Except to eleven. Seven and eleven have been a public hook-up for decades, always on the red carpet or the cover of Us Weekly, flaunting their evident pleasure at being consecutive primes. While rumors that seven is really a composite have dogged him for years, he keeps showing up in movies, like Seven Wives for Seven Brothers and The Magnificent Seven and even the execrable Brad Pitt snuff-vehicle Seven. Meanwhile, eleven galavants around the world doing photo ops with dictators, hosting AIDS fundraisers, and adopting African children. It’s an act that has worn thin and now reeks of just the sort of phoniness and self-promotion you might expect from indivisible pairs. To her credit, when eleven is broken down, (1+1=2) she comprises the Two of Duality. But does that make up for all the techno shit she released in the 80’s?

This is nothing to be proud of, either, but you get a few cocktails in 7's belly and it's all he ever talks about. Good for you, chief. Slushies and handjobs behind the dumpster.

2. 3.14

Easily impressed fanboys and infinite decimal nerds have long been holding up lighters and singing along to yet another tepid chorus of Pi. The Fibonacci sequence came late to the game, but for my money brought it a whole lot harder and with a great deal more originality. And with one tenth the attitude. While Pi was busy flaunting ass in advance placement courses and squeaky chalkboards across the country, the Fibonacci was honing its craft, biding its time, hunkering down in the basement of Ludwig’s head, coming up with ever more complex number groups. Also, Pi’s second album sucked.

Pi cannot repeat forever, and it also cannot come to an end. Talk about a logical inconsistency. Fibonacci could do it too, he's just not that into it. Or at least keeps it in cycles of sixties, like any loop with modesty and a shred of class would.

3. 666

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The beast. The eater of souls. Aleister Crowley’s favorite tattoo. Yawn. Hey, what if 666 is really just three random Granvilles that travel in a pack and have never outgrown their childhood Catholic inclinations? What if it’s a triplet of upside down nines confused about magnetic north? 666 enjoys a wholly undeserved badass reputation and really hasn’t done anything interesting since the mid-seventies, aside from being related to the Mersenne prime 3, as well as being the aliquot sum of 25. Sure, 666 enjoyed a few halcyon days during the Alchemy boom and at select Ronnie James Dio shows. Not to mention the height of Madonna’s Kabbalah fetish. But in the end it’s an overrated has been, the sort of numeral doomed to occupy the imaginations of glue-addled Byzantines, Blake fetishists, Revelations wallowers, and meth dealers in rural Kentucky who still collect Iron Maiden picture discs.

The original Gospel of Mark had 666 verses, but that manuscript got lost at the printers, so now it has 668.

4. 0

Naught. Zilch. Nada. Nil. No sir, zero is not my hero. Nor should it be yours. Zero hasn’t been cool for millenia. Even the Mesopotamians got bored of its additive identity chops within a generation of having discovered the concept to begin with. The Maya went full zero hundreds of years before Cortes showed up with a pocket full of smallpox, and their calendar still accurately spells doom because of it. Even Pliny the Elder once asked, “How can something be nothing?” Sure, zero was instrumental in burgeoning civilization’s development of complex mathematical formulations, and where would the Internet be now without binary ordering, but so what? Why is zero any cooler than 57? Or 1066? Even 899 puts on a way better show, without all the dry ice and back-up singers and pyrotechnics. Set theory? Algebra? Propositional logic? Von Neumann cardinal assignments? Whatever. Sorry, but I’ve got no respect for something that’s mistaken for a pregnant vowel half the time. It’s only when zero adds +1 and -1, when it births matter and anti-matter, that it has a personality.

Not fooling anyone with the slick sideways slant.

5. 31

Um, excuse me, divisible by what, exactly? Sure 31. And 1. Great for you, champ. Of course, 155, 310, and 465 are all divisible by 31 and 5, but why should 31 get credit for having to bring a friend? Prime number? Prime minister? Prime rib? Primary colors? Imprimatur? The only thing 31 has going for it is that 31 A.D. was the year of the consulship of Augustus. Also that 31 backwards is 13, which as a unit is punk as hell and gets a bad rap. How can you be down on something that causes Triskaidekaphobia? But 31 on its own? Dull as dirt.

Fighting what? Catatonia?

6. Whole Numbers

Want some straight-up mathematical disambiguation? Whole numbers can suck it. Hard. Everything about them. The positive integers. The non-negative integers. The attitude. The stick-in-ass routine about decimals not being allowed at the front of the bus. Take away the “W” and you’ve got Hole numbers, which is the numerical equivalent of the length of time you are politely required to pretend to understand what Courtney Love is ranting about while sweating into the cheese plate at Edward Norton’s party in Malibu.


7. 1

The absolute worst purveyor of an entire brand of numeral elitism. Okay, okay, you’re the first glyph. You’re a single entity. You’re sometimes referred to by gullible mathematicians and Punjabi scholars as “The Unity.” Plotinus and the even less impressive neo-platonists all thought The One was the source of all existence and reality. Fine. We get it already. In the meantime, 1 is mostly the raised finger of every turd who just scored a touchdown, thanked God, and then felt the need to remind 60,000 screaming fans where their team was in the standings. Hey, in Khmer, 1 is shaped like a backward ear! Ha! Who’s number one? I say it’s 9, who 1 has been riding the coattails of forever.

8. Googol

“The Googol” would be a great name for a comic book villain with an ape head and laser eyes who eventually gets his ass kicked by some blonde dude who looks like a wet tube sock crammed full of steroids. But as a number? What could be any more derivative and uninspired than a one with a hundred zeros behind it? Especially when, let’s be fair, it’s more accurately described as ten duotrigintillion on the short scale, or ten sexdecilliard on the Peletier long scale. Pick a lane, genius.

,ooo,ooo,ooo, yawn, ooo, ooo,

9. 1,000,000

What’s it worth anymore? Back in the day that was some real money. Now it’s just a down payment on a Hummer and a condo in Boca Raton. A million is so overrated it’s ridiculous, and yet there it is, fronting like it still has street cred. Everyone knows 5 mil is where it’s at now. One mil is a Tesla and a weekend in Vegas. One mil is a signing bonus LeBron just wiped his ass with. One mil is the dregs of a lottery payday after they take all the fees and taxes off the top and you wished you’d played Powerball instead. Walked a million miles? Have a million dollar question? Never in a million years? So what. A million seconds is still only eleven days.

Even Raquel can't class it up.

10.  Infinity

There’s no such thing. And even if there is, our brains are not equipped to envision it, so why bother existing? Or not existing? It may be a Darwin bumper sticker or a bent Livestrong bracelet or an elaborate cervical cap, but it’s not a number.

If this strapped on a beard and a toga, it'd be about an hour and a half before a million starving loincloths were worshiping its inconceivable ass.



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About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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10 Responses to The Ten Worst Numbers of All Time

  1. Duke says:

    Hilarious, as usual. Though you did omit that one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

    • Sean Beaudoin says:

      It’s true. Although I’m a big Nilsson fan and didn’t want to soil him with 1’s aura. I guess I could have laid it off on 3 Dog Night.

  2. Paul Bernardo says:

    I agree with most of this list except for 7 and 31. What about 23? I can’t believe Mr. Beaudoin would exclude the most sacred numeral of the Illuminati. Clearly this author knows nothing about numbers! He’s probably some sort of hipster, trustafarian who lives in Bushwick and can barely figure out the metric system. Jesus! I can just see you in college: One beer, 2 beer, 3 beer, Floor!

    And he knows nothing about punk. Punk was about the music, man!

    • Sean Beaudoin says:

      Everything I know about punk can be counted on 1 finger. It’s true I neglected 23, but I still have high hopes for the Illuminati, as well as the Knights Templar.

  3. Jeffro says:

    I was right there with you until the image of Raquel Welch, at which point I exited stage right and went to Google Images.

  4. Phat B says:

    Bout time someone stuck it to whole numbers.

  5. Joe McHugh says:

    Can’t get it out of my head!
    Damn you Tommy Tutones!

  6. karma says:

    Slay so accurate king!!!!

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