Dead Caterpillar


The universe is a vast cosmic conspiracy ...

The mystery of the number twelve

Saturday, Aug 28th, 2010

I once thought, as a kid, that a dozen was an astronomical number. I became increasingly suspicious of this understanding as the story progressed in a fourth grade class reading of Cheaper by the Dozen.

“Gosh,” I thought. “I know people back then had a lot of kids. Sometimes as much as twenty. But a dozen? How can that be? Something is off here. Way off.”

Confounded, I approached my teacher after one of our daily reading sessions. I posed the question. Then Mr. Miles looked at me with the oddest stare. It was a stare I will never forget. A stare that said more than ten thousand stares.

The mother of all stares.

“Who here knows how much a dozen is?” Mr. Miles said, addressing the entire class, breaking the unspoken teacher-student confidentiality agreement I once thought existed.

Instantly, and without hesitation, as if the whole class was being asked out for ice cream, as if their very lives depended on it, everyone in the classroom raised their hands.

Some even raised both hands, just for insurance.

Apparently my classmates had put two and two together (or rather, six and six) and learnt the meaning of a dozen at some point in their lives.

Mr. Miles looked down at me. “A dozen means twelve, Chris. I’m surprised you don’t know that by now.”

I felt stupid.

2 Responses to “The mystery of the number twelve”

  1. Tim Jones says:

    I can appreciate your confusion as a young lad around the mystery of the meaning of “a dozen.” I once knew a guy who until he turned 30 thought the word “Misled” was pronounced “MY-zuld” and never put two and two together that the word he read (“MY-zuld”) and the word he heard people saying “misled” were in fact the same word. He always read the word differently and had no idea that the word he was reading was the same word as “misled” when he heard others say it aloud. So you are not alone, my friend.

    • Chris says:

      Haha. That reminds me of how I used to pronounce the word “truck” in an entirely unique way.

      I’ll give you a hint: it involved the F consonant.

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