numbers the anaesthetist

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The Independent Online
Today is the 11th of January.

Eleven is a curious number, being one more than the number of our fingers. So if, as we are all told, our counting system is based on 10 because we have 10 digits, why are there 11 yards in two rods, poles or perches, and 11 yards in half a chain?

"Elf ist die Sunde," wrote Schiller: "Eleven is the sin. Eleven transgresses the Ten Commandments." Psychologists have been known to claim that the 11 players on a cricket or football team are an allusion to human imperfection or the futility of play. The number may, however, be a mark of respect to the Dionysiads, a group of 11 Spartan women formed to fight against the orgies of the Dionysian cult.

Eleven is also:

The number of different ways Shakespaeare spelt "Shakespeare".

The percentage of American adults who say they would like to be President.

The cups of coffee drunk each day by the average Swede.

The door number of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The number of days lost in 1752 on changing from the Julian to Gregorian calendar.


More puzzles from our "26 L of the A" (Letters of the Alphabet) collection. Three Chambers Dictionary prizes will be awarded to correct solutions of the following:

3 P O (K W and B B)

4 J M (E W)

6 C I S O A A (L P)

9 L O a C

10 P F T C L N

Send entries to: Pastimes, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, to arrive by 23 Jan.