# Why is 7 the most feared number?

I was in a computer programming training. A code executed an output number 7 and the trainer asked ( assuming joking) "Why is 7 the most feared number?" and someone said "Because 7,8,9 ... aho ho ho.."

was the expression very native or idiomatic? what does this mean?

• Because seven was a six offender :P
– jla
Nov 6, 2019 at 4:30

Heh, because "Seven Ate Nine (7, '8,' 9)."

Ate = Eight.

• I've heard a variation on this. "Why did 4 run away from 5? Because five sic'ed seven" which plays on the British slang phrase "sic" meaning "to attack". Jan 19, 2017 at 15:36
• @MattThrower, you mean like this, yes? Jan 20, 2017 at 11:13
• @TeacherKSHuang Yes, that's right. I had no idea it had made it into an official dictionary: had presumed it slang. Jan 20, 2017 at 11:38

It's a children's joke, nothing more. It's certainly not something one would encounter in everyday conversation.

The number pattern 7, 8, 9 sounds identical to seven ate nine in spoken form. A similar joke is depicted here:

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• Fun fact: The Turkish word for 7 ("yedi") is the same as the Turkish word for "ate". And verbs come after objects in Turkish, so you can tell this joke in Turkish as "Why was 4 afraid of 5? Because 5 6 7!" Jan 17, 2017 at 22:21
• My daughers used to say it in Spanish (where, of course, the joke makes no sense at all). Jan 18, 2017 at 3:12
• This image is quite disturbing Jan 18, 2017 at 7:08
• Even though I have known the joke since I was a child, the graphic made me (actually) laugh out loud. +1 for that alone! Jan 18, 2017 at 7:27
• @DanStaley Of course, this will lose the added "extra" that 6 and 9 look so similar, giving 6 the more reason to worry. Jan 18, 2017 at 9:54

To add to Mike's excellent answer, the first time I was introduced to this joke was in a lesson about homophones. As as child this silly joke was a perfect example, and much easier to understand then something like "Did the two of you go to the park too?"

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled and mean different things. For example ate (past tense for eat) and eight (the number).

In the case of eight and ate, even children can tell when to use them. But with too, to, and two, many adults can't even tell when they are being properly used.

Some really common English homophones are:

• two, too, to
• they're, there, their
• eight, ate
• then, than