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Counting to Potato

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"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:

1: Sequences: 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.

B: Lists: 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 3 + 5 = 4. Occasionally overlaps with Counting to Three and may result in a case of E = MC Hammer. A key element of the Disorganized Outline Speech.


Super Trope of Unusual Chapter Numbers and Lucky Charms Title. Compare One, Two, Skip a Few.


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     Fan Works  

  • In Chapter 23 of This Bites!. Maybe a typo, maybe not:
    Cross: (to Lassoo) Hey, fine by me. One, the stronger I get the more damage I can take and dish out, and B. I want to be able to tote around a badass cannon like you.


  • 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!"
  • Inside Out:
    Disgust: On a scale of one to ten, I give this day an F.


  • 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).
    Detritus: SOUND OFF!
    Troll Recruits: ONE! TWO!
    Detritus: SOUND OFF!
    Troll Recruits: MANY! LOTS!
    Detritus: SOUND OFF!
    Troll Recruits: ERR! WHAT?
  • 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.
  • 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."

     Live Action TV  

  • 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.
  • The Full House episode "Arrest Ye Merry Gentleman" has Jesse saying to the joke shop owner (played by Mickey Rooney) who is keeping them hostage in his shop (and has just made fun of Jesse's hair), "A) It's mousse. And 2) Bring those cops on, OK?"
  • Sometimes present in the "Numberwang" sketches on That Mitchell and Webb Look, a fictional and completely non-sequitur number guessing game show. One episode has the host saying "So Julie, you're ahead on 77; Simon, you trail on 83"; another has "Autumn" appearing when he asks for time on the clock.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Dimension Jump" finds Holly preparing to activate his new invention, the Holly Hop Drive:
    Holly: 10... 9... 8... 6... 5...
    Rimmer: You missed number seven!
    Holly: Did I? I've always had a bit of a blind spot with sevens.
    Rimmer [sing-song]: We're going to die.
    Holly: No problem, I'll start lower down.


  • In U2's song "Vertigo", Bono opens by counting in: "Unos! Dos! Tres! Catorce!" (Translation: Some, two, three, fourteen)

     Newspaper Comics  

  • 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, to Q to 12. Given that the whole point is to make it up as you go, this probably goes for the scores as well.

     Real Life  

  • 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.
  • The cheeky song intro "A one, and a two, and a ching-chong banana!" seems to qualify.
  • There's a classic drinking game called "Fizz Buzz", in which players pick a number (say, 7), then take turns counting upwards, until they reach a multiple of the number (7, 14, 21, and so on) and have to say "buzz" instead. Failure results in having to drink a shot. It's also used without alcohol in acting circles as a concentration technique, and in schools, in teaching kids their multiplication tables.


  • 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.

     Theme Parks  

  • 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.

     Video Games  

  • Deadly Rooms of Death has a Running Gag in the DLC level set, "Perfection" in which Beethro tries to count something, and a voice in his head starts counting with him and messes up. Subverted in one room where the voice starts counting, and doing it correctly, prompting Beethro to tell it that there's nothing that needs counting.
  • Super Paper Mario: Slim.
  • In The Simpsons: Hit & Run, the bonus races are run by Milhouse, Nelson, and Ralph. All of them will throw in some variation on the countdown just to mess with you. For example, Nelson will say "Psyche!" to mess with your timing, Milhouse coughs from inhaling smog and his countdown is extremely slow, and Ralph is incapable of counting so he just uses whatever random things he comes up with.

     Web Original  

  • 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."
  • Group X teaches you how to count to "Schfifty Five".
    "Shwam, doo, two-and-heif, scheven, schfourteen-teen, schwenty-one, shwenty-seven-heif, 27, 37, WHAT YOU SAYIN??"
  • Seanbaby will occasionally use these when dealing with a figure too stupid for real integers. His article on MMA fighter Kazuyuki Fujita's legendarily indestructible skull includes fighting tips with made-up numbers like floop, harf, formy & glap.
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon Brown had its win condition reached on the 11th day, but didn't end immediately after reaching the win condition because the update to PBR wasn't finished. Because of this, the timestamp on the final update in our recap page is 10d26h1m, aka 26 hours and 1 minute into Day 11.

     Western Animation  

  • 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".
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Three Gems and a Baby", Greg does this as he tries to explain why baby Steven's gem begins to glow.
    Pearl: Well, what do you do with a human baby when it glows?!
    Greg: First off, human babies don't glow. And letter number B... WHAT IF THEY DO?!
  • 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, Numbuh 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.
  • In The Superhero Squad Show episode "The Final Battle! ('Nuff Said!)", the Hulk tries to count the Infinity Stones to make sure he and the other Squaddies have gathered all of them. His choice of numbers leaves a lot to be desired.
    Hulk: One, seven, fish, two thousand, negative three...
  • The Camp Lazlo episode "Snake Eyes" had a scene where some of the Bean Scouts were playing hide and seek. Skip claims that he can count to ten, but his counting goes as "1, 3, 11..."

Alternative Title(s): Can Count To Potato


Example of: