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Why isn’t 11 pronounced onety-one? – Danny

This is cutting edge improvisational blogging. We call it –

“Whose Blog is it Anyway ?” 2 – The Unanswerables

We have written this for FUN, not serious, to amuse ourselves and our readers, and help promote our blogs. Please read with that in mind.

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Whose Blog is it Anyway? 2 – The Unanswerables

Why “The Unanswerables” ? Because the titles assigned to my guest improvisers don’t have an exact scientific answer or they are just zany and off the wall.

Do not expect fact here. Do not expect the truth here. This is creative writing for FUN, HUMOUR and for those with a SENSE OF HUMOUR. It’s cutting edge IMPROVISED blogging, not science weekly or the historian’s gazette.

The guest improvisers were assigned titles by me, and are therefore NOT necessarily experts or even actually FOR the topic they are writing about. They all did however “YES, AND” the challenge which is the spirit of improvisation and what we’re doing here.

We’re not interested in your critical appraisal, it simply isn’t required. It is in fact IRRELEVANT to the context of improvised, for fun creative writing. Stop taking yourselves so seriously.

So without further ado …


His Lordship – The Incredible, The Fantastic Blogging Experimenter

Danny I’ve known for a long time. He’s all round good guy. Smart, intelligent, good sense of humour and when it comes to numbers he knows his stuff.

So he was the only logical choice for a numbers improvisation. And in true WBIIA fashion he’s done a fine job of explaining (or not) what the hell is going on with the number 11.

You can find Danny at the Danny Boy blog.

Please give a warm welcome to Danny.


Don Charisma Warning Improvised Writing Warning Improvised Writing

Why isn’t 11 pronounced onety-one?


I am Danny Boy Broderick, long term friend of Don, and novice improviser. This is the second improv challenge I have taken part in, after successfully avoiding too many adverse comments on ‘Why Men Are Better Chefs Than Women.’


Today I have been tasked with writing about the number eleven – why isn’t it pronounced onety-one?

For the answer to this unanswerable, you would have to look back on the history and origins of words – otherwise known as Etymology. But this is improv, so doing any form of research is definitely out of the question. Instead I will make up my own origin of how we came to the number eleven instead of onety-one.

I will leave it to someone else to comment as to the exact origins of the word eleven. I’m sure it has something to do with English being based on the Roman, German and French languages.

We also have the number 12 – which is of course twelve and not two-teen, twiteen or perhaps even twit-twoo. Why do the numbers only settle down in structure from 13?

The hands of our 12 fingered ancestors
The hands of our 12 fingered ancestors

Here are some possible answers:

  1. Our cavemen ancestors must have had a sizeable input into the development of our numbers system. For all those who have read Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel, or watched the the very lovely Darryl Hannah in the movie of the same name, it is clear that the breakthrough in counting came at this time.

Who can forget the scene where the leaders of the cave tribe are struggling to count beyond ten, and Darryl’s younger version manages to figure it out in about 10 minutes. Of course, not wanting to be shown up, the leaders banish her from the tribe.

  1. Our ancestors might have had two extra fingers and could count to 12. When you learned how to count, you did it using your fingers right? As we have a different number for 11 and 12, it must be that our ancestors had 12 fingers.

During those early days of counting, this makes perfect sense – it explains why we have different, unrelated words for each of the numbers 1-12.

Perhaps our cousins, the Neanderthals, had 2 extra digits. They were of course the more advanced branch of humans at one point.

  1. If it wasn’t our ancestors, then perhaps the originator of the counting system was somehow genetically mutated and born with 12 fingers.

The sort of person who was thinking about numbers (instead of hunting deer) must have had some sort of genetic advantage, so they could well have had 12 fingers.

  1. Perhaps the origins of 11 and 12 came from the ancient, and long forgotten race of Elves. If I had rather pointy ears that are ideal for counting, then I would have invented a number system based on my 10 fingers, and 2 pointy ears.

If these numbers did originate from the Elves, then Eleven and Twelve would come quite naturally.

  1. I seem to remember the German for 11 is Elf, which backs up point 4 quite nicely.
  2. If anything, 11 should be tenty-one rather than onety-one.
  3. 11 is not onety-one because 10 is ten and not onety. Why isn’t it onety? Well, try counting 1-10 really fast, out loud in the middle of your office. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine and here it comes, onety.

I hope no-one heard you, otherwise you’d sound like a real idiot. It just doesn’t flow off the tongue does it. So if 10 isn’t onety, why can’t we make 11 whatever we like.

  1. Interestingly, the number 11 also doesn’t follow logic in lots of other languages around the world – German, French, Spanish. If no-one else follows a logical counting system, then why should English? I would be interested if there are any Esperanto speakers reading this.

As it’s a fairly new language, you would hope they would have fixed this counting anomaly.

  1. If 11 was onety-one then what would you call elevenses? For those not in the UK, this is our mid-morning snack. Presumably this would become onety-onesies?

That is just another reason why it shouldn’t be onety-one.

  1. Bingo callers would have a tough time with Legs Onety-one. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as Legs Eleven.
  2. Finally, our eleventh reason – just imagine how long it would take on Armistice Day parades to say ‘At the onety-first hour of the onety-first day of the onety-first month’…A definite no-no.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is much easier to remember.


I hope you enjoyed reading about the origins of the number 11 and why it isn’t onety-one. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons, so do add them below.

I usually write on my own blog – or Do visit me if you like to see a few photos and maths challenges…

BY Danny, blogger extraordinaire at the Danny Boy blog.

Notes for commenters:

Comments are invited. BUT you are reminded that this is a public blog and you are also reminded to think before you press the “post comment” button. 

DO NOT post outbound links in my comments whilst “Whose Blog is it Anyway? 2” is in progress.

Good manners are a mark of a charismatic person – so please keep comments civil, non-argumentative, constructive and related, or they will be moderated. If you feel you can’t comply, press the “unfollow” button and/or refrain from commenting.

I read ALL comments but can’t always reply. I will comment if I think there’s something that I can add to what you’ve said. I do delete without notice comments that don’t follow rules above. For persistent offenders I will ignore you permanently and/or report you.

Most decent people already know how to behave respectfully. Thank you for your co-operation on the above.

Warm regards, Don Charisma

23 thoughts on “Why isn’t 11 pronounced onety-one? – Danny

  1. So much history, so many possibilities. I agree with Elaine from FoodBod. The elf aspects to make perfect sense to me.

    “The six-fingered man killed my father…” Oh, The Princess Bride comes to mind with this as well. Perhaps Count Tyrone Rugen was the last of our Neanderthal ancestors?

    Also, I was caught counting out loud. Not afraid to admit it.

    1. Caught counting out loud – now that has made my day :).

      I don’t know what your parents warned you about when I was young, but ‘Beware the six-fingered stranger’ was mentioned quite a number of times in my house.

  2. “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine and here it comes, onety.” LOL!!! This reminded me of something that happened back in high school. We were all very nervous and were made to do a headcount in Filipino, eaqch one shouting out his/her number. After “sampu” (10), counting starts with a “labing-,” so we were counting, say from 16. “Labing-anim! Labing-pito! Labing-walo! Labing-siyam!…” stutter..”L-labing-sampu!!!” LOL!!! I really almost laughed out loud as the girl near me should have said “Dalawampu!”

  3. Great idea for a blog feature and great job Danny Boy. So fun! Oh, and I believe it should be called “oneteen.” I think that’s what the elves intended.

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