Sesame Street's Count von Count ... Can't Count

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In a celebration of Sesame Street's YouTube channel getting to its one billionth view, the Count sings a song with some faulty math.

tumblr_m4d43boOrQ1rvup99o1_1280.jpg Sesame Street

I am a Sesame Street loyalist, but I must tell you some sad news: Count von Count, endearing lover of all things numeric, has made a mistake in his math.

The error comes in an otherwise delightful video celebrating Sesame Street's YouTube channel's one billionth view. The Count sings, counting all of the "You"s in YouTube." But pay close attention beginning around the 1:35 mark:

Did you catch that? Here's what he sings:

Ten million, twenty million, oh I'm not done!
Counting in millions is a million times fun!
One hundred million, two million, three hundred, four
We've counted this far, now let's count some more!
I count to a number so big and so fine,
I get to nine hundred million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine!

To which he then adds one (you!) and gets to a billion. But, oops! The Count is still 99,000,000 off! 

In fairness, this is more a mistake in verbalization than math. Saying nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine is a mouthful. I'm sure written out in digits, the Count would have noticed his mistake. That's why we have digits, after all -- something surely the Count appreciates more than just about anyone.

But that said, congratulations to Sesame Street on achieving this milestone. It couldn't have happened to better people/muppets. To just about any babysitter or parent, it's no mystery why the channel has been such a success. With clips both current, such as this gem starring Feist, and classic, as with this charmer from 1990 of Elmo and Julia Roberts demonstrating emotions, the stream of videos can keep a kid entertained for hours in the back of a car or while busy parents get a meal on the table.

And there's a lesson in the Count's error too: These sorts of numbers are so big they defy comprehension, not just for kids,  but for the Count and grown-ups too. If the Count's miscount shows us anything, it's that there is a cause for celebration in the arbitrary milestones we hit -- whether we can wrap our minds around them or not.

 

Update March 11, 2012, 11:23 pm: It seems the video has been fixed! Thanks to Charles Kenny for the catch. We can all breathe easy again.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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