"In linguistics cardinal numbers are used for quantity (one, two, three), as opposed to ordinal numbers used for order (first, second, third). In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are numbers used to denote the size of a set. Since mathematics is often concerned with infinite objects, a study of cardinality tries to discuss the size of infinite sets."
(this piece of wisdom has been brought to you by Wikipedia; although it probably won't be of much use to you if you are not a professional mathematician - yeah, one of those befuddled, bespectacled and bearded monsters that use slide-rule as a shoehorn)
So in plain English: cardinals can be used whenever things need to be counted, enumerated or otherwise tallied, whether they be chicken before and after they hatch, cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, runs batted in, wrenches in the Plumber of the Year Pageant, legs on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Centipede, sheep crossing silently over the bridge, Sirloin Strip Steaks a Neanderthal man could slice from a woolly mammoth, apples on a tree overhanging Isaac Newton’s contemplating forehead, mustard based life-forms occupying the southwestern arm of the Galaxy of Barely Visible Pantaloons, carbohydrates in Humpty Dumpty’s diet or the number of times you hear the word "cool" at a Standard Eastern Party.
Nevertheless, the noblest purpose, one can bestow upon cardinal numbers is to keep track of the Cardinals’ chances to win the World Series (as seen in the accompanying figure taken from a betting site tradesports.com). If you take a good look at it, you’ll notice that just as I adopted the Cardinals as my chosen team in June, the graph undergoes a significant change. After waltzing under the radar of baseball experts for a number of months, the curve takes off with the unbridled enthusiasm of jitterbug fiends and never looks back. But don't get me wrong. I am not trying to imply that my refrigerator is stuffed with beheaded chickens, pickled leeches and half-full jars of technicolored potions or that I indulge any kind of sorcery that your grandma wouldn't approve of. It was just one of those little coincidences that cloak life in its esoteric poncho. And also a private little nod from the Baseball Gods that I chose the right team indeed.
But speaking of arcane oddities. There is one more thing you can do with Cardinal Numbers: you can count Count Dracula’s teeth, unless, of course, you are blind as a bat at bat. Which, of course, is silly, as bats are not allowed into the order and Count Dracula has other bloody things on his to do list. So consider this merely a theoretical possibility. In fact, such irrelevant inanity can only be racked up by the brain of a middle-aged Leprechaun who is trying to understand the undulations of the Irish Stock Market while watching half-a-pound of caviar crammed into a coconut shell floating on a surface of a golden pool full of the finest Mexican Tequila. And that’s exactly how I came up with it.
Friendly warning: in case you will try to reconstruct the above experiment in order to verify that those would indeed be the Leprechaun’s thoughts, be warned that the conditions of the experiment call for financial wherewithal available only to people who are willing to assume extraordinary risks and who possess a blowtorch and a current welding license.
© 2004 Jan Rehacek
The Book of Cardinals 2004
This text is completely fictitious and is merely a reflection of a coincidence of names. If you would like to learn about the actual numbers, please, become a math major!
Part I. Namesakes
Part II. 7th Inning Stretch of Imagination
Part III. Three Dreams