The Meaning of Mngwotngwotiki

Eric Korn

  • The Anthropology of Numbers by Thomas Crump
    Cambridge, 201 pp, £30.00, July 1990, ISBN 0 521 38045 6

When I was somewhere between one and nine I brooded over the possibility of finding a new number, an integer between one and nine that had somehow been overlooked. Their names and shapes seemed so arbitrary, ten shapes out of a million trillion thousand hundred and eleventy possible arrays of lines and loops, so how on earth could the adult world, the world no longer in single digits, be so smugly sure it had got them all? This worry has not entirely gone. Like so many people who are good at sums, I turned out to have no aptitude for mathematics: the ciphers continue to haunt me, entering my dreams and my prayers and my obsessions.

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