Word of the day: arithmomania

I learned a new word today: arithmomania, which means a compulsive desire to count things.

I found this word on Wikipedia, where I was reading about vampires. Among the practices used to keep vampires from emerging from their graves, people would sprinkle poppy seeds, millet, or sand over a grave. They believed that the vampire would stop to count these many small objects and, consequently, would not leave the graveyard.

I was instantly reminded of Count von Count, a character on Sesame Street. To help children learn their numbers, this Count would always stop to count things. He had a pale face, pointed teeth, and a long black cape—indeed, he was based on Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Count Dracula. The joke that Count von Count loved to count was one of the many amusing things the writers of Sesame Street inserted into their educational programming for their own benefit and for that of parents and other guardians who had to sit through such programs with their children.

It is, of course, possible that the creators of Sesame Street knew about the European custom of tricking vampires into counting small objects in the cemeteries. It is more likely that they were unaware of the custom and simply liked joking about the title Count. It is even possible that the sentences attributing arithmomania to vampires are a prank that someone added to the Wikipedia entry. One can never be sure. J.

8 thoughts on “Word of the day: arithmomania

  1. 1) I loved the Count. 2) Does it count if you count in groups of a particular number? I count in groups of my military draft lottery number. How many groups is not important, just that it is a multiple of the number. Now I at least know a name for what I do.

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  2. Sounds a little OCD.
    I know an autistic guy (high functioning) who says he thinks of everything in terms of numbers and mathematical equations. That’s how he makes sense of his world. I’d never heard of this before; I wonder if it’s a form of arithmomania?

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    • It may be. The famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras taught that everything consists of numbers. Given what we know today of physics and chemistry, he might not have been far off the mark. J.

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  3. I had phase when I was young of this very thing. I counted stuff constantly. I’d count twice and drive myself nuts if my totals didn’t match. Then I’d do it a bunch just to verify. It disappeared on it’s own. I still suffer from some mild compulsive stuff that I mask really well. Most involve touch. If I touch something with, say my right side, I feel compelled to touch it with the left to even it out. Doors are the worst, Even now, if I brush my shoulder against the frame, I will find a reason to go back and brush the other. Or, when I step on something unusual while walking. Mostly I hide it, not now that then somebody notices.

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