Counting to Potato
"He doesn't go by numbers, he gets hieroglyphics."
In situations involving single numbers—or letters when spelling out—any of these numbers or letters may be replaced by one out of sequence, a numerical for a letter or vice versa, or just a random word. This is most often done by The Ditz
or by someone mocking their perceived lack of general knowledge, or by characters to try to appear stupid
This trope comes in a few different flavors:
You know how the numerical alphabet goes? You know how the phonetic alphabet goes? You know what alphabet spaghetti looks like? Stick the four in a blender. May (later) be justified because 6 is 9
Always Played for Laughs
, but not always by someone stupid as in Real Life
it is entirely possible to forget where you got up to when designating reasons in lists and/or if it was with numbers or letters. The best examples follow the structure of "number-letter-thing."
Wednesday: Isolated Replacement
A number or letter is replaced by something else—anything else, maybe even a picture—in an isolated situation. Let's say you're in math class and you get asked to write on mini wipe boards the answers to some incomplete equations. What's 3x5? You draw a duck. What's 10% of 160? You write "Ze."
π: Alternative Number System
These people don't work in metric (decimal). They don't even work in imperial
. Their counting can be non-standard with a perfectly legitimate reason In-Universe
. Only if other characters think it's stupid will it count
-21: Unusual Chapter Numbers
Basically just listing out of order, but with chapter numbers! Usually of books or films, or The Film of the Book
, and will undoubtedly confuse some of the audience.
Sex: Homophones (and homosymbols)
Six becomes sex, three becomes a tree
, M and N are interchangeable and anything else is entirely possible because people can have funny accents
¶: Lucky Charms Title
Letters or numbers replaced by a similar-looking picture, letter, or number. So, 2 replacing Z but not M replacing W.
Surprisingly unrelated to Letters 2 Numbers
, Two Plus Two Makes Five
and Three Plus Five Make Four
. Occasionally overlaps with Counting to Three
and may result in a case of E = MC Hammer
of Unusual Chapter Numbers
and Lucky Charms Title
. Compare One, Two, Skip a Few
- Home Alone. As the McAllister family wonder about Kevin from Paris, Megan asks Buzz if he's not the least bit concerned about his well being, or something bad happening to him.
Buzz: No, for three reasons: A) I'm not that lucky. 2) We have smoke detectors. And D) We live on the most boring street in the United States of America, where nothing remotely dangerous will ever happen, period.
- In Trope Namer The Ringer, Steve Baker (Johnny Knoxville) is pretending to be mentally retarded, and one of the things he says while practicing in the mirror is, "I can count to potato!"
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "One...two...FIVE!"
- In Discworld, trolls have a counting system based on fours, rather than tens (apart from Detritus, who ends up counting in binary). As a result a troll counting "one, two, three, many"note comes across this way (leading to an In-Universe stereotype that trolls can't count past three).
- In Tacky the Penguin, "odd bird" Tacky always counts, "One, two three, four, two, three, six, zero, two and a half, zero."
- Pippi Longstocking does this. "One, two, nineteen."
- The Heroes of Olympus: The monsters going through the Doors of Death in Tartarus go through in groups with designations going from A-22 to Double Red. Hyperion wonders just what kind of number system that is.
- Justified in Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens. Alcatraz deliberately numbers his chapters in a way that makes no sense, so that if the order-obsessed cult of Evil Librarians tries to read it their heads will explode.
- Wayne (the rare Cloudcuckoolander -plus- The Atoner) from Wax And Wayne claims he bought a ward against logic that lets him "add two and two and get a pickle."
- In Ant Farm Paisley counts only in vegetables in one episode.
- Hey Vern, It's Ernest!. While preparing for a baking contest, Ernest reminds Vern of three basic principles (while holding up four fingers): "Number one—always use plenty of sauce. B—always squeeze yer tomaters. And three—don't forget to thump your melons, knowwhutImean?"
- On Glee, Kurt says that Brittany believes that the square root of four is rainbows◊.
- In this Sesame Street skit, a little girl trolls Kermit the Frog as he attempts to recite the alphabet with her:
Girl: A, B, C, D, E, F, Cookie Monster!
- What makes it more adorable is that according to this Jim Henson biography, the girl thought up the joke without prompting, and Henson improvised Kermit's responses on the spot.
- Doctor Who, from "Voyage of the Damned":
The Doctor: First things first. One. We are going to climb through this ship. B. (No.) Two. We are going to reach the bridge. Three. Or C. We are going to save the Titanic. And, coming in a very low four. Or D. Or that little iv in brackets they use in footnotes. Why? Right then, follow me.
- In an early Peanuts strip, Lucy counts her cookies thusly: "One, six, eleventy-four, thirteen-eight, nine million, twelvty-three". But despite this, she can still tell that Snoopy took two of them when she wasn't looking.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The scores to Calvinball range from oogie to boogie, and Q to 12. Given that the whole point is to make it up as you go, this probably goes for the scores as well.
- The page quote is of Darren Criss on his Glee costar Chris Colfer awarding himself 12 out of 10.
- There is a meme of people, commonly those with Down's Syndrome, with the quote "I can count to potato" since a Down's girl from the Midlands (England) was quoted for it◊ on The BBC News.
- A logic quiz which devolved into a meme has the answers of 2+2= fish, 3+3= 8 and 7+7= triangle. A variant can also be found in one Professor Layton game.
- The NATO phonetic alphabet, used to maximize clarity in official audio communications, uses easily-distinguished words for letters (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc) and supplants 9 with "niner" to ensure it can't be confused with the German "Nein", or with "five" when transmissions' quality is poor. Words substituted for letters were selected, irrespective of actual meaning, after exhaustive tests to determine which English words were most easily distinguished when conveyed between people of various NATO nationalities and accents.
- Much Ado About Nothing: The incompetent constable Dogberry has just caught a pair of criminals, and is trying to tell Don Pedro what they did in a speech that combines this trope with getting stuck in a revolving door at the Department of Redundancy Department:
Constable Dogberry: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
- Don Pedro replies in kind:
Don Pedro: First, I ask you what they’ve done; thirdly, I ask you what offense they’re charged with; sixth and lastly, I ask you why they’ve been committed here; and, in conclusion, I ask what they’re accused of.
- Disney Theme Parks. At the entrance to Toontown in Disneyland, there's a population counter which is constantly cycling through numbers...and screws, stars, dumbbells, TNT, and various other random things.
- In the "Top 11 Nostalgic Mindf*cks" episode, The Nostalgia Critic counts down from "number banana" to "number relativity'.
- JonTron gives bizarre fractions, such as, for example, "Six Golden Bananas+/Shigeru Miyamoto" in the rare instance he gives a score for a game.
- In Issue 7 of Teen Girl Squad (The One with... the Teeny Tiny Girl Squad), Toddler!Whats-Her-Face claims "I can count to G!" while Toddler!Cheerleader brags "I can count to purple, backwards."
- Cow and Chicken uses this quite often, considering almost all of the characters have some Cloud Cuckoolander in them. Some more specific examples:
Red Guy is trying to expose Super Cow
Red Guy: WHAT ELSE DO I KNOW ABOUT SUPER COW? WHAT ELLLLSE?! OKAY, THINK! A) She speaks Spanish. 2) She's a superhero...
Chicken kicking Cow out of his new treefort
Chicken: 1) It's for men only. And B) You're a six-hundred-pound girl!
- The Simpsons is notorious for its portrayal of the "typical hillbilly". In "Rednecks and Broomsticks", Lisa is playing with the Spuckler children, they counted while she hid as saying, "One, two, backwards-z, one-legged triangle, banana hotdog, double-banana hotdog, sixty-corncob-two..."
- In "Marge's Son Poisoning". Homer is doing curls with a dumbbell. He starts counting normally, before randomly skipping through numbers, and then including 'banana'.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show has two examples from Sven Hoek in his self-titled episode. When playing "seek and hide" with Stimpy, he counts "Nine... eleven... K... fjord... one yundred!" Then when playing the "Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence" board game with Stimpy, Sven moves eight spaces, counting as he does so, "One, six, yirteen... eight!"
- Strange Hill High: After Mitchell breaks maths in "The 101% Solution", the answer to one square root problem become 'banana football'. Later, while attempting to score -1% on a maths exam, Mitchell gives the answer to one question as 'hamburger'.
- In one episode of The Fairly OddParents, Mr. Crocker states that learning math is a waste of time, as in a world where fairies exist, fairies can just warp reality so two plus two equals fish.
- The segments in the fourth installment of Spike and Mike's series Lloyd's Lunchbox are numbered Lesson One, Lesson B, Third, and Lesson 4.
- Rock Bottom demonstrates this in a Felix the Cat cartoon where he and the Professor are launching themselves from a cannon:
Rock: Ten, nine, eight...uh, what comes after eight, boss?
Professor: Seven, stupid!
Rock: Seven, stupid, six...
- In Yoohoo and Friends, Chewoo, Pammee, and several other characters have a tendency to include colors while counting.
- In one episode of Numb Chucks, the Chucks give a countdown that runs "Five...four...ten...blueberry".
- Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Randy hides the Ninjanomicon under a math book cover that reads "easy as 1-2-C".
- On a couple of occasions in Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbah 4's given some pretty strange countdowns, with letters and random numbers. Presumably, this is a combo of him being Book Dumb and the overall strangeness of operating the KND's 2x4 Technology.