Alice: 27 plus 35 is 52.
Bob: Actually, it's 62.
Alice: Oh yeah, I forgot to carry the one.
It's also common for the supposed 'incorrect' answer to be one that would be impossible to get from simply forgetting to carry a digit.
Also, when someone is calculating, he will always say "...carry the one...", mostly because carrying numbers is the most advanced mathematical concept most writers (and audiences) can remember from way back then. Note, though, that the line works with any single-digit number, so you can hear, for instance, "carry the seven".^{note }
Has nothing to do with when your Chosen One refuses to walk, nor with what Frodo did. Compare with Misplaced a Decimal Point, the other common arithmetic mistake.
Examples:
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Live-Action TV
- Kryten in Red Dwarf, episode "Camille", forgot to carry the three.
- Jayne in the first episode of Firefly does this in full sarcasm mode. 'Ten percent of nothin' is ... lemme do the math. Nothin', and nothin', carry the nothin' ... '
- Spoofed in an episode of MythBusters. Grant sketched out a complex but valid mathematical formula on the side of a test vehicle. After Grant finished the calculations and announced the result, this exchange occurred:
- Square One TV's "Oops!" showed clips of engineering disasters that apparently resulted from mathematical mistakes such as this and Misplaced a Decimal Point.
- Used in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 short Cheating.
- "This is GEOGRAPHY!"
- In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon laughs excessively (and un-Sheldon-like) when remembering a time Leonard did this (in a published paper, no less).
- Sheldon himself did this once. And showed it to Stephen Hawking.
- This happens in a fifth-season episode of Babylon 5 where a man Lyta is scanning tries to block her out by doing math in his head. Her offhand comment that he forgot to carry the seven distracts him from his distracting long enough for her to get in.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when Quark and Odo crash on an uninhabited planet and need to get a signal out to be rescued, this exchange occurs, where Quark (a Ferengi) is doing complex calculations in his head.
Quark: "All we have to do is haul this transmitter to higher ground, more altitude less atmosphere. Go high enough and we just might get a signal out."Odo: "How much higher do we have to go?"
Quark: "Carry the seven, take the square root, times pi... I'd say ah..." *points to a VERY high peak* "that high."
Literature
Music
- Tom Lehrer, in "New Math," describes a traditional way of doing a subtraction problem: "Three from two is nine, carry the one..." but claims that in the New Math approach to mathematics teaching that was then in vogue, "the idea is to know what you're doing, rather than to get the right answer." As a result, he does the problem over again, with different carrying of the one...to get the same answer, of course, but he does it so fast that it's hard to follow.
"It's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!"
Newspaper Comics
- In one Bloom County strip, Oliver uses an equation to prove that flightless waterfowl shouldn't exist, but by the end of the strip he realized he forgot to carry the two. Resident penguin Opus, who had been fading out of existence until then, asks Oliver not to do that again.
- This Dilbert strip has a cashier ask Dilbert for $1.89. Dilbert gives him $7.14 "for simplicity". (In his defense, that is easy change to give, if maybe not to calculate: it's $5.25.)
Dilbert: (breaking the fourth wall) As an engineer, I feel a professional responsibility to make things easier for people.
Cashier's thought bubble: ... Carry the three.
Radio
- Adventures in Odyssey: Bart Rathbone mumbles "Carry the 4..." while calculating how much a neon light sign Kurt wants for his Student Body President campaign would cost.
- In The Navy Lark, Lt. Phillips often 'carries the one' (among many other factors) when calculating "Left hand down a bit."
- In Old Harry's Game, Einstein is working out a long complicated calculation, before concluding "No! Dammit, forgot to carry the seven! I'm always doing that."
Video Games
- In Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Chariots of the Dogs, the Mariachi supervisor of the Time Vortex mutters "carry the tres" (Spanish for three) when trying to figure out where an ink ribbon landed after it was lost in space and time.
- Likewise, in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Baddest of the Bands, Bubs mutters "carry the G" while calculating how much money Strong Bad made off his Battle of the Bands.
- In the first Knights of the Old Republic, you find yourself in a virtual prison with another prisoner. The two of you have a riddle competition in order to see who's mind gets to enter your body. When you defeat him with a trick question that seems at first glance to require math skills, he says this.
- Serina, the shipboard AI in Halo Wars, utters this when adjusting her calculations for the time until the Spirit of Fire is pulled into the Shield World. Considering she's a hyper-advanced AI with a whole ship's computer systems to play with, she's probably just saying it for laughs.
- An astronomer in Kingdom of Loathing tried to prove that a comet would not hit the Kingdom, but failed because he "forgot to carry the one."
- Parodied in Black Mesa, the Fan Remake of Half-Life, with a pair of scientists staring at a whiteboard filled with very accurate-looking calculus equations.
- Done in Tony Hawk's Underground 2 at the end of the Australia stage, when your character is about to be booted off the tour. You are only saved because Rodney Mullen spots a mistake in the score tally, and Tony and Bam's teams are actually tied.
Phil: Oh, yeah... I guess I should've carried the one— OW! [Bam springs a mousetrap on Phil's ear]
Bam: Nice math, fat boy!
Webcomics
- According to this Questionable Content strip, carrying the one is Serious Business in accounting.
- Masters of the Art had this scene between the two would-be lovebirds, when Marie is helping Dirk with math:
Marie: It's not so bad! You just make little mistakes.
Dirk (staring at Marie's breasts): They're not little.
Marie: See here? You forgot to carry the two.
Dirk: I'd like to carry those two. - Every time anyone calculates anything in 8-Bit Theater. Culminating in "carry the infinity".
- Serious Business in this XKCD comic.
- In El Goonish Shive, Mr. Alephnull does it here as part of what he claims is pure gibberish intended to mess with Ellen and Grace's heads but his result is actually very close.
Web Original
- The Nostalgia Critic does it in this part of the AVGN/NC feud.
- Opposite of the "infinity" example above: Carry the zero.
Western Animation
- Said by Dr. Frink in The Simpsons, episode "Itchy and Scratchy Land". He was informing his coworkers that the robots will inevitably turn against their human masters, then informs them they have 24 hours before this happens. The robots start revolting immediately, and Frink realizes he did the trope.
- In the episode "The Trouble with Trillions", there's a jam at the post office on April 15 as everyone tries to file his taxes. Lenny is filling out the forms using Professor Frink's back as his desk.
Professor Frink: Oh no, no, no, I felt that! You didn't carry the 1, you foolish person! Now you'll incur the penalties, compound interest, and the wrath, and the trudgeons! B'hoy! - Lampshaded in Futurama, episode "Insane in the Mainframe". Hermes is doing stuff on his calculator and he says 'carry the one', then presses a button on his calculator that says, "Carry the One."
- Used again in another episode: when Farnsworth cracks the Grand Unified Theory, you can hear him say "carry the infinity"
- The Penguins of Madagascar: When the penguins' vacation to the moon turns out to be a failure (they thought they were on the moon, but were still in New York), Kowalski says while checking his calculations for the rocket, "It seems I forgot to carry the two."
- Used by Booker in U.S. Acres when he's calculating how many worms he's caught. The answer, of course, is "none."
- On My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Pinkie Pie carries the two when calculating Rainbow's and Applejack's scores in a "Most Daring Pony" competition. Not that the piece of paper she scribbles on shows anything meaningful...