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Chapter 10 7 × 13 = 28 A number of Abbott and Costello’s memorable routines have a mathematical flavor. The clear standout is the donut scene in In the Navy (1941).1 Lou Costello plays Pomeroy, a baker, and Bud Abbott is his friend, Smokey. 1:06 SMOKEY: Hey, donuts! POMEROY: No, Smokey! Don’t! SMOKEY: Oh, come on. One donut. POMEROY: I haven’t got enough. I can’t afford it. I just baked twenty-eight of these things. Well, after all there are seven officers I’ve got to feed and I’ve just got enough to give them—thirteen apiece. Understandably, Smokey demands a proof that 7 × 13 indeed amounts to 28. Pomeroy obliges, in spades. (In what follows, we indicate in bold each new step of Pomeroy’s calculations.) 10.1 First Proof: Bogus Division POMEROY: There were seven officers. There’s a seven. Now I’m going to divide to prove it to you [figure 10.1]. Now, twenty-eight donuts. 7| 28 | POMEROY: Now, seven into two. You couldn’t even push that big seven into that little two. Therefore we can’t use the two. I’m gonna let Dizzy hold it. I’ll use it later. Now, seven into eight—One. 7| 28 |1 1 Later in this chapter we give a survey of other filmed versions of the routine. 115 116 10 7 × 13 = 28 POMEROY: Now, we’re gonna carry the seven. It’s getting a little heavy, so I’ll put it right down there. 7| 28 |1 7 Fig. 10.1 28 ÷ 7 = 13. POMEROY: Seven from eight—One. 7| 28 |1 7 1 POMEROY: Now, a minute ago, we didn’t use the two. I’m gonna use it now. Dizzy, give me back the two. Thanks. Put it right down there. 7| 28 |1 7 21 POMEROY: Now seven into twenty-one? SMOKEY: Three times. 7| 28 |13 7 21 POMEROY: 7—28—13. SMOKEY: Now wait a minute! 10.2 Second Proof: Bogus Multiplication 117 10.2 Second Proof: Bogus Multiplication SMOKEY: Put down thirteen up there [figure 10.2]. Now you claim that each officer gets thirteen donuts? Put down seven, draw a line. Now seven times thirteen is what? 13 7 Fig. 10.2 13 × 7 = 28. POMEROY: Twenty-eight. SMOKEY: Prove it. POMEROY: Seven times three? SMOKEY: Twenty-one. 13 7 21 POMEROY: Seven times one. SMOKEY: Seven. 13 7 21 7 POMEROY: Seven and one? SMOKEY: Eight. 118 10 7 × 13 = 28 13 7 21 7 8 POMEROY: Two. 13 7 21 7 28 10.3 Third Proof: Bogus Addition SMOKEY: Oh no. Come on. We add this up. Put down thirteen seven times [figure 10.3]. Fig. 10.3 13 + 13 + 13 + 13 + 13 + 13 + 13 = 28. SMOKEY: Now we’re getting it. You claim all this added up amounts to what? POMEROY: Twenty-eight. SMOKEY [adding up the 3s from the bottom to the top]: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, . . . POMEROY [takes over, adding the 1s from the top to the bottom]: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28! 10.4 Play it Again, Abbott 119 10.4 Play it Again, Abbott As for most of their routines, Abbott and Costello employed the 7 × 13 = 28 skit a number of times. They did an excellent version in Little Giant (1946). On TV, it appears in The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952) and in The Abbott and Costello Show (1953).2 The routine actually long predates Abbott and Costello. In his book Knotted Donuts and Other Mathematical Entertainments,3 Martin Gardner traces it back to Irvin S. Cobb’s 1923 anthology of jokes, A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. It is possible that Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles performed the routine in the 1921 Broadway show Shuffle Along;4 if so, they almost certainly performed it much earlier on the vaudeville stage. Probably the earliest filmed version appears in the short film Jimtown Speakeasy (1928), in which Miller and Lyles prove 3 × 17 = 24.5 In 1951, Miller and Ches Davis performed the 7 × 13 = 28 version in Yes Sir, Mr. Bones. In the same year, Ma and Pa Kettle proved 5×14 = 25, in Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm. Finally, Flip Wilson and a young Michael Jackson did a fine job with 7 × 13 = 28 on The Flip Wilson Show (1972).6 Fig. 10.4 Michael Jackson performing the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781421406084
Related ISBN
9781421404837
MARC Record
OCLC
867122027
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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