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Non-Natural Number Gag

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In a context where the viewer expects a natural number, like 1, 2, 10, or a billion to be used, a number from a larger set, like pi, infinity, three quarters, or negative twelve is used instead. It's funny because it makes no real-world sense. In formal mathematical jargon, this is a violation of the domain of discourse.

Since it's dependent on what you're trying to count, having "zero" of something may or may not be a non-natural number gag. A zero dollar bill is unexpected, while a politician with zero fans is just sad. Similarly, a half-dollar bill is just fine, even if your country might not issue them, while a politician with half a fan is nonsense.

May be explained in the story, maybe not. Either way, it's supposed to be mathematically correct, unlike Counting to Potato, where nonsense numbers are used because the character communicating them doesn't know how to count right. Compare Eleventy Zillion, where nonsense number names are used to suggest vaguely-defined but very large numbers.

A Missing Floor will often have a fractional number between the numbers of the two floors it's physically inbetween. Minus World and a Glitch Entity can cause this to appear in video games. Episode Zero: The Beginning and Unusual Chapter Numbers are out-of-universe examples.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In one strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is struggling with an arithmetic problem on his homework, and Hobbes (who is a Know-Nothing Know-It-All with regard to this particular subject) suggests it requires the use of "imaginary numbers", such as "eleventeen" and "thirty-twelve".
  • One comic of The Far Side has a mother introducing her 1.5 children. The .5 child is missing one side of his body. (This is a Homage to The Phantom Tollbooth; see below under Literature.)
  • Frazz once had the following exchange:
    Coach: Caulfield, pick a number.
    Caulfield: "Anything Goes", by Cole Porter.
    Coach: A number number.
    Caulfield: Avogadro's number.
    Coach: A number between one and ten!
    Caulfield: π
    Teacher: What's wrong with Coach?
    Frazz: I think someone did a number on him.

    Fan Works 
  • In the "Logic with Pinkie Pie" fan video, along with several other random numbers, Pinkie claims that there are 3.14159 stars in the sky.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Being John Malkovich, Craig takes a job as a filing clerk on floor 7 1/2 of the Mertin-Flemmer Building. It's between the floors numbered 7 and 8 and half the height of a regular one.
  • The Three Stooges: In "Three Little Pigskins", Moe, Larry and Curly wear the following marks on their football uniforms, in order: H2O2, 1/2 and a question mark. Other Stooge shorts would reproduce this, including 'Half-Wits Holiday' where the boys are part of the 'Amalgamated Association of Morons, Local 6 7/8'.

  • When the Discworld spin-off people were selling official Unseen Academicals football shirts, Ponder Stibbons's shirt number was given as 1.618; the Golden Ratio.
    • In Going Postal, Mr. Pump declares that although Moist never physically harmed anyone himself, his crimes lowered his victims' life expectancies such that he's killed the equivalent of 2.338 people. Moist wonders how you can kill a fraction of a person anyway.
  • Train platform 9 3/4 in Harry Potter. It is accessed by walking straight into the wall between platforms 9 and 10, which has been enchanted to act as a portal to the Hogwarts Wizarding School train. Pottermore mentions a platform 7 1/2 which has trains to magical locations in continental Europe.
  • In I Forced A Bot To Write This Book, the dating profile for "Gwendy" lists her age as "π ± ∞".
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo learns of a perfectly average family with exactly 2.58 children, among other similar quirks. The 0.58 child doesn't seem to be any worse for the wear, and is the only one who can drive their extra 0.3 of an automobile.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck joked about kissing your 2.5 kids goodbye (it's joking about how a Gallup poll showed 2.5 is considered the average ideal number of children in a family, and pretending that a single family could precisely match that ideal).

    Live-Action TV 
  • 2point4 Children is about a family with two children. The title is a reference to the supposed "average" family, although the writer has suggested that Bumbling Dad Ben might be the "point four".
  • In the Elementary episode "Heroine", Joan asks Sherlock to describe his shoulder pain as a number from 1 to 10. He deadpans "Pi".
  • Australian sketch comedy show Full Frontal once did a skit called "Nerd Lotto", where, apart from the first number (42), the numbers drawn were things like pi and Graham's Number.note 
  • In the "North Minehead By-Election" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, Slightly Silly candidate Kenneth Phillips-Bong got "naught" votes, which implies he didn't even vote for himself!
  • Two and a Half Men is about Charlie and Alan Harper, two grown men, and ten-year-old Jake, the eponymous "half".

  • Billy Connolly has a pastiche of "Ten Guitars" called "Nine and a Half Guitars".

  • In Welcome to Night Vale episode 23, "Eternal Scouts", when five children appear out of nowhere in Cecil's office, he states that "exactly half of them (are) boys, and half of them (are) girls."

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In normal Magic: The Gathering sets, cards' stats are always given in whole numbers. In joke sets Unglued and Unhinged, creatures with fractional Power and Toughness, and even fractional mana costs can be found, including all of the Donkey characters (Bad Ass, Cheap Ass, Smart Ass, Fat Ass and Dumb Ass) because they're half-assed.
  • The Toon parody of Cyberpunk 2020 (in the Tooniversal Tour Guide) is set in the year 2020 1/2. The parody of Transhuman Space (in Pyramid vol 2) is set in the year 2100 3/4.

    Video Games 
  • In the "Claptastic Voyage" DLC for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Handsome Jack meets up with the Vault Hunters on Deck 13 1/2, a hidden floor between Deck 13 and Deck 14 of Helios.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, you can find rupoors instead of rupees in some treasure chests. As their name implies, they have a negative cash value. And yes, if Link opens a chest, he will always take the rupoor if there's one inside.
  • Papyrus from Undertale claims he's a dozen away from having a double-digit follower count on social media. Since "a dozen" is 12, this means he has -2 followers.

  • In 8-Bit Theatre, Red Mage suggests that if the Light Warriors were to attempt the Dwarven "Bearded Trials", only 1/3 of the Light Warriors would survive. The problem is that there are four light warriors, which would result in 1 and 1/3 Light Warriors surviving per his estimate.
  • Homestuck: Post-Scratch Dave Strider invented physical jpeg artifacts so utterly worthless that they somehow cost less than nothing to create, allowing him to make a fortune by simply manufacturing them.
  • xkcd: Strip #487 features "A Guide to Numerical Sex Positions", which starts out normal (69, 99, 71), then gets weird (34, the square root of 8, and the natural logarithm of 2π), driving the lady helping demonstrate the positions to give up and walk away.
    Alt Text: We didn't even get to the continued fractions!

    Web Videos 
  • In a parody of Iggy Azalea's song "Fancy" by Bart Baker, Iggy spells her name as Iccy, Iegi, and HRT5, because she "can't spell because her IQ is negative ten"

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur, "Arthur's TV-Free Week":
    D.W.: Arthur, think of a number between one and ten.
    Arthur: Two and a half.
    D.W.: That's not a real number!
    Arthur: Is too!
    D.W.: Is not! Mom, only the numbers one through ten are numbers, right?
    Arthur: Why can't I use halves? It's not my fault if she can't do the math.
  • A Family Guy Cutaway Gag portrays Two and a Half Men as being about two guys and a third who's missing his lower body who all scream in horror.
  • Futurama has plenty of these, due to the amount of mathematicians on the show's staff.
    • The TV channel seen the most is Channel Square Root 2.
    • Blernsball (the 31st Century version of baseball) players have fractions and equations on their uniforms because all the available whole numbers have been retired.
    • There is a pi-th Avenue in New New York.
    • The episode "The Late Philip J. Fry" features a parody of the Zager & Evans song "In the Year 2525" which mentions the year 1,000,000 1/2.
    • In a riff on Star Trek, Zapp Brannigan dates his Captain's Log April 13th, point two.
  • In the Goofy cartoon "How to Play Football", the ball lands right between the goalposts, wobbling back and forth as the gun ending the first half fires. The bullet from said gun deflates the ball, leaving it hanging there. After much deliberation, the officials decide to award it half a point.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Quentin Trembly was elected the 9th president of the United States. After he is erased from historical record and replaced with William Henry Harrison, Trembly is referred to as the 8 1/2th president.
    • One of Trembly's many acts as president that lead to the US government pretending that he never existed is creating the -$12 bill.
    • One artifact the Author picked up in another dimension is the infinity-sided dienote, which when rolled can cause anything to happen.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
  • Histeria! did a song based on the legend that David Rice Atchison was president for a day. A subtitle identifies him as "The 11 1/2 U.S. President."
  • Infinity Train: In the finale of book 2, Jesse returns to the Train because he's not leaving without his friend MT. However, because MT is a Denizen and can't leave because she can't get a number, the Train suffers a Logic Bomb and Jesse's number starts flashing all sorts of random values, including pi and various fractions.
  • Looney Tunes:
  • Combined with Counting to Potato in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Got Game?" At the start of the final game, the score is: Girls — square root of Pi, Boys — a crudely-drawn picture of a duck.
    Phineas: Clearly, it's still anyone's game.
  • The Oblongs: When Pickles' youth group is one member short of the minimum, Pristine snidely comments that Beth being "at most one half" cancels out Helga being "at least one-and-a-half".
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: In "Missouri Mish-Mash", the Kirwood Derby is a hat with the ridiculous size of 7 5/32.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In one of the Oh Yeah! Cartoons shorts, Timmy wishes that there was a ton of him. After taking Timmy's weight and calculating it, Cosmo and Wanda poof up 44 and a half Timmys, with a final, pint-sized Timmy being The Runt at the End.
  • The Justice League episode "Wild Cards" takes place in Real Time as the League attempts to defuse several bombs that the Joker has placed throughout Las Vegas. The whole thing is being televised by the Joker, and there is even a countdown clock in the corner of the screen, set to 22 minutes, fifty-one seconds.
    Joker: Oh, what where you expecting from me? A round number?
  • Legend of the Three Caballeros: In the first episode, Donald goes to the wrong address because his thumb covered up the 7/8.

    Real Life 
  • LaTeX and METAFONT are scheduled to make their final releases be exactly version Pi and e, respectively.
  • In India, there's an organization that distributes 0 rupee bills. They aren't intended to be used as currency, but rather to shame officials that ask for bribes.
  • Exploited by penny shaving fraud, where the thief steals money in fractions of a cent from each transaction. Since the bank statement is supposed to round to the nearest penny, the victim can't see the theft.
  • King's Cross station in London has a platform 0. It also has trolley disappearing into a wall labelled "Platform 9 3/4", near a shop selling Harry Potter mermorabilia.