Friday, January 23, 2009


Hundred is a strange, magical word, suggests Bunny Crumpacker in Perfect Figures (2007). "The Greeks believed hundred to be a marvelous number, the number of perfected perfection, perfect Good." Crumpacker notes that hundred's power "is evidenced in the use of the article a that so often precedes it when we speak—even when we write. We don't say a ten, a twenty, or a nine—not even a fifty ... But we do say a hundred. ... Hundred is the first of those large and articled numbers, the article bestowed, no doubt, because they are so large." What's more magical than a hundred? How about a hundred and one? "Adding just one to a hundred seems like an extravagantly enormous quantity," Crumpacker says. "A hundred and one of anything is a vast cloud of numbers. That single unit on top of a pile of a hundred seems magical, a number almost beyond our power to count. It's the single straw that brought the poor camel to its knees, the one too many on top of everything else. A hundred and one years is a sentence of doom, an exile for eternity, as if a hundred years might not be enough. A lease of a hundred and one years is virtually forever; a hundred and one dalmatians is a whole lot of black-and-white puppies."

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