Zero to Lazy Eight: The Romance of Numbers

Overview

Did you ever wonder why a stitch in time saves nine and not, say, four, or why the number seven is considered the luckiest, or what number the word googol refers to? Well, the Humez brothers, along with Joseph Maguire, have answered all of these questions and more. In "Zero to Lazy Eight", they take us on a wacky and enlightening trip up the linguistic number scale from zero to thirteen and back by way of infinity, showing us just what numbers can tell us about our culture's past, present, and future. Whether it ...
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Overview

Did you ever wonder why a stitch in time saves nine and not, say, four, or why the number seven is considered the luckiest, or what number the word googol refers to? Well, the Humez brothers, along with Joseph Maguire, have answered all of these questions and more. In "Zero to Lazy Eight", they take us on a wacky and enlightening trip up the linguistic number scale from zero to thirteen and back by way of infinity, showing us just what numbers can tell us about our culture's past, present, and future. Whether it be numerical maxims, mathematical theory, or numeric etymology, there is something here for everyone.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Take five,'' ``behind the eight ball'' and ``looking out for number one'' are phrases that suggest how deeply ingrained numbers are in our daily thought. Combining irreverent wit and erudition, this enjoyable smorgasbord of number lore explains the origins of dozens of phrases, while also tracing hundreds of word origins, from ``abundant'' to ``zip code'' (Zone Improvement Program). Each chapter centers on an integer from zero to 13, with a final chapter on infinity (whose symbol is a ``lazy eight'' in cowherd branding lingo). The authors, though, freely head off on multiple tangents to delve into left-handedness, mistaken identities, colonial American weights and currencies, internal body rhythms, creation myths, notions of the afterlife, clothing sizes and much else. The Humezes ( Alpha to Omega ) and freelancer Maguire cram an astonishing array of facts and lore into their excursion. (Aug. )
Library Journal
Earlier works by Alexander and Nicholas Humez were alphabet books for grownups ( ABC Et Cetera , LJ 11/1/85; Alpha to Omega , LJ 7/81), and this is a kind of counting book for grownups. The entertaining free-form essays on numbers 1 through 13 (plus zero and infinity) discuss the linguistic roots of numerical expressions and related folklore, idioms, and mathematical diversions. For instance, the chapter on number 6 starts with the expression ``six of one and half a dozen of the other'' and goes on to discuss ways of talking about symmetry and equality, puns and jokes (linguistic mapping), mathematical mapping, set theory, syllogisms, and socialism. This book is fun to read, and it contributes a linguistic angle to the idea of numeracy, but given its approach, promoting it as a reference book is a mistake. Newbridge Book Club alternate.-- Amy Brunvand, Fort Lewis Coll. Lib., Durango, Col.
Booknews
An exploration of the rich world of numbers and the variety of ways we put them into words. Mixing humor with erudition, the authors look at such expressions as "zero sum game" and "odd man out" and reveals the history, culture, and mathematics that lie behind them. The volume comprises 15 chapters, exploring respectively the integers from zero to 13 and the notion of infinity (conventionally represented as an eight lying on its side, which in cattle branding terminology is known as a "lazy eight"). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gilbert Taylor
In a parallel universe, "Fun with Phonics" would be the title of this leisurely brain game on numerancy, because for every excursus on the calculation of p, there is an equal and not necessarily opposite word game of etymology. Numbers started out entwined with language, or at least alphabets (like the Greek and Latin), so we thank the Arabs for inventing something better. The authors allot one integer per chapter, hence the book's title in "this "universe. Keynoting each chapter with some common saying, such as the eighth with "behind the eight ball," they play through the billiard metaphor into strange angles of Pascal's triangles. In that spirit, they rack up base 2 arithmetic, sequences, prime numbers, square roots, and sundry concepts high schools forced us to learn against our wills. Remembering such tangents of education is not literally educational, but if they were pain then, they're pleasure now. A winner for the crossword-puzzle crowd.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671742829
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/6/1993
  • Pages: 224

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