No. 482: "Quién No Pertenece?"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
Sept. 26 2000 3:00 AM

No. 482: "Quién No Pertenece?"

Peru's Vladimiro Montesinos, Haiti's Raul Cédras, Ecuador's Abdalá Bucaram, the Shah of Iran, Panama's Manuel Noriega—who does not belong? Why? 

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Send your answer by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Friday's Question (No. 481)—"Count on It":

"It is such a hit with the kids because they can count them and then it is so rewarding for them to eat them." Who said this about what?

"I'm not sure, but if it's that Swedish group and their slaves, there's gonna be hell to pay."—Matthew Renner (Katha Pollitt had a similar answer.)

"ABC programming chief Stu Bloomberg, about next season's reality-based, buzz-generating new show, Third-World Kids 'n' Squirrels."—Ellis Weiner

"George W. Bush, about education vouchers."—Nick Smith (similarly, Dash Pupkin and Jon Drumwright)

"RJR Nabisco, on its new line of 'educational' tobacco products."—Ariel Gilbert-Knight

"Gee, after seeing the merchandising for Joe Eszterhas' new movie, American Dildo, I'm thinking maybe Hollywood does need to stop marketing R movies to children."—Gerry Kaufman

Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Say what you will about your precious base 10, the counting systems of ancient peoples were based on numbers from two to 60, so you can all put your gloves back on, or your shoes, or both if you are a talented counting monkey who is wearing shoes in some pathetic and misguided attempt to be accepted by humans, to whom you'll always be just a monkey no matter how well you count and ride around on that little bicycle. You're a monkey! Show some self-respect.

Where was I?

Binary systems, in which the counting goes "one, two, two and one, two twos, two and two and one," etc., are still used among the ethnologically oldest tribes of Australia, who apparently do not accept the American Express card, if I understand the ads on NBC's overproduced Olympic coverage. But hey, how about those anorexic gymnasts! What a plucky bunch of permanently prepubescent athletes they are!

There are tribes of Tierra del Fuego who use number systems in base three and four, confusing even themselves. The quinary scale is very old but is now used only by speakers of Saraveca, a South American Arawakan language, or perhaps by G.W. in calculating his goofy tax cuts, for all the sense I can make of them. And I doubt that he'd do well on the uneven parallel bars. (Nor will that monkey if it insists on wearing shoes.) Similarly, the pure base six scale seems to occur only sparsely in northwest Africa and is otherwise combined with the duodecimal, or base 12, system. (I can go on and on, all the way to base 60 and those coo-coo Babylonians, if my search engine doesn't overheat, or whatever it is that search engines do.)

Suffice it to say that eventually, base 10 dominated all other systems with no involvement from Bill Gates and no whining from the antitrust division of the Justice Department. Nevertheless, vestiges of other systems endure. Twelve is particularly durable—inches in a foot, months in a year, ounces in a pound (troy weight), gates to the city. Oh, what a beautiful city! Our watch faces are a constant reminder of the persistence of this number, and just how late we are filing our copy. And of course we see 12 in "dozen." A gross is a dozen dozen, perhaps because it would be really gross to eat a dozen dozen doughnuts, or whatever it is ancient American peoples used to eat—each other apparently, if you believe some of the catty stories about the Aztecs. People can say such mean things.

Nonetheless, 10 does enjoy a privileged position among number systems, no doubt because of the number of fingers found on human beings who are not shop teachers. We even see this in the names for our numbers. Eleven comes from Old English endleofan, meaning 10 and one left over; 12 from twelf, meaning "two left"; the endings -teen and -ty both refer to 10, of course, and not in some snide way. And 100 derives from a pre-Greek term meaning 10 times 10. And what about tent? Well, probably not. But still. A monkey gymnast—that would be something to see, wouldn't it?

Good and Good for You Answer

Judy Kelley, a kindergarten teacher at the Lilja school in Natick, Mass., said it about The Cheerios Play Book, a best seller that teaches kids to count using the popular commercial product.

The book is one of a new genre of snack-based books aimed at toddlers, including The Oreo Cookie Counting Book, Skittles Math Riddles, The Kellogg's Froot Loop Counting Fun Book, and the Mobil 30 Weight Oil Let's Get All Greasy and Buy a Lot of Fine Petroleum Products Book, except perhaps for that last one. The Cheerios book has sold 1.2 million copies. The M&M Brand Counting Book has also sold more than a million.

Many educators oppose this trend on both nutritional and marketing grounds. "I think it is such an abuse—manipulating your audience when they don't have the ability in any way to assess," Ann-Marie Mott of New York's Bank Street School for Children told the New York Times.

Miriam Bar-on, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, "I think the whole thing is revolting, to be targeting these little kids with that kind of marketing." In their defense, it must be said that Simon & Schuster, publishers of the Cheerios books, does have standards. Robin Corey, the executive in charge of this enterprise, notes that they limit themselves to "wholesome" foods, like Oreos.

Evan Brady Sets Me Straight Extra

It's Goldfinger! Auric Goldfinger threatens 007's genitals with a laser in Goldfinger! It's only agreed by almost everyone to be the best Bond movie, Randy. Bad Randy! Bad, bad Randy!

Common Denominator

Olympics—hot; G.W.—cold.

Randy Cohen used to write Slate's "News Quiz." His most recent book—oh, like you don't know.

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