Do you remember the Top 40 Countdown? Do they still have a Top 40 Countdown? Who decided on 40? Why not 50? Was it perhaps a conscious attack on the Top Ten? We all have some fascination with numbers. Sometimes that fascination becomes an obsession, sometimes a compulsion, and sometimes a headline writer’s dream.
I noticed something the other day while perusing the headlines on a national news web-site. Once I got past the REALLY BIG BANNERS IN LARGE, BOLD FONTS, about half of the headlines were counting something. 22 Terrible Songs by Terrific Artists, 5 Hottest New TV Shows, 7 Things that Trigger Alzheimer’s. Again, once you get past the REALLY BIG stories, these are the articles that get mouses clicking. Why is that?
I proposed these reasons why we are fascinated with numbers.
1. Numbers are universal. There is no question that numbers are everywhere. And wherever they are, they are almost always the same. “Five” might be “five,” “cinco,” “cinq,” “cinque,” “fimm,” “viisi,” “besh,” or “ezinhlanu,” but “5” is just plain “5.”
2. Numbers are easier to read than letters. Until they get really, really big, like 1,817,654,427,003 your brain sees, reads, identifies, and processes “117” much faster “one hundred, seventeen.”
3. Numbers play favorites. Go ahead, ask someone what his or her favorite number is and you will certainly get an answer. Favorite numbers end up in passwords, on security keypads, on roulette tables, and being played in the daily lottery drawing. Ask someone what his or her favorite letter is and you will get a blank stare.
4. Numbers are memorable. Spirit of 76, Apollo 13, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. All you have to do is think of the number portion and right away you know the significance of what you’re seeing. That’s why ATMs use PINs, not PILs.
5. Numbers are pleasing to the eye. Seriously, numbers are attractive little devils. Rattle off 36-24-36 and everybody knows exactly what picture to paint in your imagination.
5-1/2. Sorry, there is no 5-1/2 but it sure did make the title of this post more memorable, didn’t it?
Numbers. As the Science Officer aboard NCC-1701 would say, “Fascinating.”
That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?