The Friday Fillip

Today is June 11, a single 1 shy of a Nelson.

I learned this week — and am keen to share — that 111 (eleventy-one?) is considered the perfect “Nelson” in Britain at least. This, Wikipedia tells us, is because of the saying that when Admiral Nelson died he had “one eye, one arm, one leg.” Everyone knows — knew then, too — that the hero of Trafalgar never lost a leg, by the way.

111’s role as a Nelson likely got preserved in Britain because of the popularity there of cricket and darts, which have scores that get that high. Thus, 222 becomes a double Nelson, 333 a triple Nelson, etc. Here, of course, it wouldn’t work because the sports scores are more modest — unless you’re a Leafs opponent.

111 is by way of being a magical number in mathematics, as it happens — for reasons beyond than the fact that it is the lowest possible integer that requires six or seven syllables to pronounce, depending. I’ll have to refer the curious to the Wikipedia article on the number, because I’m as near as may be to innumerate. But, because I like the math words even though I don’t understand them, I can tell you here that 111 is a nonagonal number, a perfect totient number, and the “second repunit“. Actually, I can take a crack at repunits:

“Repunit” is made up of repeated units, or ones. 11 is the first, 111 is the second etc. See? that wasn’t hard. Where it gets nifty is when you observe of 111 that though it looks prime as hell, it’s not in fact a prime number in base 10 but breaks into the factors 3 x 37 (how improbable is that!?), so all Nelsons (i.e. triplets) in base ten can be represented in the form 3n x 37. And with that I sense I’m losing my way so I think I’ll stop with the math now.

It remains only to add that, if you’re in trouble in New Zealand, dial 111 for emergency services (how sensible). And if you’re on Route 111 in New Brunswick, whether or not you’re in trouble, you’re somewhere between Rothesay and Sussex. Whereas, if you’re on Route 111 in New Scotia, you may be trying in vain to go round in circles, so you should stop too.

[photo credit: leo reynolds]


  1. Should have waited for elevenses to post this, no? Then there’d have been food for the stomach, too. :-)

  2. Is repunit pronounced reap unit or rep unit or some other way?