The Nth Noun

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Yesterday while stuck in traffic I listened to Michael Lewis being interviewed about his new book "The Fifth Risk", and I passed the time thinking about other titles of the form Definite Article + Ordinal Number + Noun. There are many of these, but there are clear stand-outs for numbers 1, 2, 3, and 7:

The First Circle
The Second Sex
The Third Man
The Seventh Seal

I couldn't think of any iconic examples for 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, etc., but no doubt readers will be able to supply some.

We could (but shouldn't) stretch the topic area to include The Fourth Amendment; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night lacks the initial article, and so doesn't make the cut; and web search turns up a long list of available candidates for each number that are insufficiently iconic, or seem so to me, e.g.

The Fourth Age
The Fourth Bear
The Fourth Closet
The Fourth Cup
The Fourth Dimension
The Fourth Estate
The Fourth Gospel
The Fourth Hand
The Fourth Man
The Fourth Monkey
The Fourth Sacrifice
The Fourth Stall
The Fourth Transformation
The Fourth Trimester
The Fourth Turning

Some of these instances of The Nth Noun even name multiple novels, TV episodes, movies etc., like The Fourth Horseman (and that Wikipedia entry misses at least one novel, a World of Warcraft quest, and more…)

But I'm sure that there are other examples that belong in the first group of iconic The Nth Noun titles. What have I missed?

Update — In the "I should have thought of it category", from the comments:

The Sixth Sense
The 42nd Parallel

There are lots of other worthy suggestions, but I think those are the only two that I would have thought of if I'd thought of them.

 



74 Comments

  1. Nathan Weston said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:05 am

    The Fifth Element
    The Sixth Sense
    The Ninth Configuration

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:15 am

    Not convinced that Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle qualifies as "iconic". In the U.K. at least, Jeffrey's Archer's 1996 The Fourth Estate" is far more likely to ring bell's with "the average man on the Clapham Common omnibus". Nothing "iconic" comes to mind for 5–9.

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:17 am

    Argh — "bells", not "bell's". The greengrocer's apostrophe strikes again …

  4. MattF said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:18 am

    The Eleventh Hour.

  5. Keith said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:25 am

    The ninth wave.

  6. Simon M said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:25 am

    IIRC there was a book called "The Fourth Man" that was about the Cambridge spy ring scandal. Anthony Blunt being said fourth man, but his part in the scandal was kept secret for years–it pays to have friends in high places!

  7. Karl Schnapp said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:28 am

    The 13th Warrior

  8. Luke said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:29 am

    The 13th Warrior
    The Eleventh Hour is also a wonderfully illustrated children's picture book by Australian author Graeme Base. Iconic in Australia for sure.

    Next time you're stuck in traffic:
    Definitive Article + Superlative + Noun

  9. Evan Harper said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:31 am

    "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" is iconic in Commonwealth countries but for some reason Americans don't remember when the armistice ending WW1 took effect

  10. Q. Pheevr said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:37 am

    Maybe The 42nd Parallel, by John Dos Passos? But the U.S.A. trilogy is more iconic as a whole than its volumes are individually.

  11. Athel Cornish-Bowden said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:41 am

    Marginally more elevated literature than The Fourth Estate, there is The Fourth Protocol (Frederick Forsyth).

    There is also The Thirteenth Strike (of the clock, calling into question the first twelve).

  12. Ian said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 7:56 am

    Philip Taylor – The First Circle presumably contributed to Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Prize: if Archer is at risk of nomination for that it has passed me by. When omnibuses were in service, the socialists using them would most certainly have known of the novel. I guess it depends how you like your icons ?

    Iskrenny vash, tovarish ! ;o)

    I

  13. Kevin Huigens said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:09 am

    The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge

  14. quodlibet said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:22 am

    Does "The Fifteenth Pelican" ring a bell? It later got turned into a TV series as "The Flying Nun".

  15. David L said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:34 am

    The Thirty-Nine Steps
    The Twenty-Seventh City

  16. David L said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:41 am

    sorry, 39 steps doesn't qualify

    nor does, I guess, The 18th Brumaire [of Louis Bonaparte]

  17. James Wimberley said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:55 am

    The ordinals of ordinary speech have been left in the dust by number theory. There are no ordinals for fractions, zero, and negative numbers, all of which could be useful. I admit I can't see a use for an ordinal complex number, or for one of Cantor's infinities.

  18. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:00 am

    As well as The Fifth Element there is The Fifth Elephant.

    'The fourth estate' and 'the fourth dimension' are certainly well-established phrases, though perhaps not because of books with those titles.

  19. Mike M said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:04 am

    In Canada, The Fifth Estate is a famous news show and the first thing that would come to mind, before The Fifth Element.

    I think the Sixth Sense and the Thirteenth Warrior are dominant for their numbers. The Eighth Wonder of the World is a common epithet for a variety of things, though not strictly a title.

  20. John From Cincinnati said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:08 am

    "The Fifth Season" by N.K.Jemisin (Hugo Award for Best Novel, 2016)

  21. Starry Gordon said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:11 am

    'The Hundredth Monkey' (as in the hundredth monkey effect, q.v.)

  22. Erik Fjeldstrom said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:43 am

    @James Wimberley, what about the zeroth laws of thermodynamics and robotics?

  23. David Scrimshaw said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:50 am

    The Fifth Beatle

  24. Patrick Whittle said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:52 am

    For James, above, Cantor himself introduced infinite ordinals. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordinal_number

  25. Thaomas said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:52 am

    The Fifth Essence — Quintessence

  26. John From Cincinnati said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:56 am

    Although it might be cheating to cite reference works whose title routinely includes an edition number, if we are going for "iconic" it would be hard to beat "Webster's Third New International Dictionary". (The most controversial dictionary ever published?) Recent Language Log discussion here.

  27. Jonathan Smith said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 10:39 am

    Incidentally the difficulty of questioning ordinals is one of those annoying little flaws in English relative to e.g. Chinese (the ?whichth president?)

  28. Scott P. said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 10:57 am

    There are no ordinals for fractions, zero, and negative numbers, all of which could be useful. I admit I can't see a use for an ordinal complex number, or for one of Cantor's infinities.

    Check out this video — there are ordinals for fractions and complex numbers:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSSsZLTMDq0&t=1s

  29. Ursa Major said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 11:18 am

    Just to see what it came up with I started typing into Google: the zeroth… Alongside the obvious suggestions of the zeroth law of thermodynamics and the zeroth law of robotics was a suggestion of "The Zeroth Maria". Apparently the full English title of this novel is "The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria", which I'm guessing (maybe wildly wrongly) refers to the original version of a person stuck in a Groundhog Day-style loop https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Empty_Box_and_Zeroth_Maria

    Without Google I only had The Fifth Element, The Fifth Elephant, The Sixth Sense and The 13th Warrior.

  30. Ursa Major said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 11:23 am

    There are a good number of works titled "The Fifth Column" including Hemingway's only play: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Column_(disambiguation).

  31. DWalker07 said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 11:54 am

    The Fifth Dimension (musical group). Popular a few years back. :-)

  32. Mick O said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

    The second upshot of this discussion is discovering the term "iconic" to be practically useless across even a small, self-selected group like the LL community. What is iconic for me is unheard of to others, and so on.

  33. DaveK said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

    There's a World War II movie set in Canada: The 49th Parallel. Features Lawrence Olivier as a Québécois lumberjack (he's even worse than you might think, but overall, not a bad old flick)

  34. RQA said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

    The Eighth Day (Thornton Wilder)

  35. KeithB said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

    The Third Chimpanzee

  36. Belial Issimo said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 2:35 pm

    The Twenty-third Psalm.

  37. Bloix said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

    Both of these are a bit OT, but WTF:
    The Eighth Wonder of the World, by Leslie Epstein.
    Also, Robertson Davies wrote a novel called Fifth Business – no definite article.

  38. Topher Cooper said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 3:00 pm

    Patrick Whittle "For James, above, Cantor himself introduced infinite ordinals"

    That was my thought as well, but then I realized that while Cantor's ω (which is to ℵ0 — the infinite cardinal number for the number of integers — as seventh is to seven )and relatives are mathematically "ordinal numbers", they do not have the lexical form of English ordinal number words.

  39. KevinM said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 3:37 pm

    The Seventh Son, by blues legend Willie Dixon.
    [(myl) Nice: Lyrics here, audio here.]
    Dylan, as was his wont in those days, gave the blues a surrealist twist in HIghway 61:
    Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
    Told the first father that things weren't right
    My complexion she said is much too white
    He said come here and step into the light he says hmmm you're right
    Let me tell the second mother this has been done
    But the second mother was with the seventh son
    And they were both out on Highway 61

    [(myl) Lyrics here, audio here.]

  40. KeithB said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 3:58 pm

    Belial:
    Don't you have 150 of those? 8^)

    How about "The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son"?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh_son_of_a_seventh_son

  41. Roscoe said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 4:06 pm

    The Third Policeman (Flann O'Brien)
    The 18th Emergency (Betsy Byars)

  42. David Morris said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

    @Bloix: there is an opera called The Eighth Wonder, which is a fictionalised account of the building of the Sydney Opera House.

  43. Narmitaj said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 5:29 pm

    Both Ronald Reagan and Jeffrey Archer had The Eleventh Commandment – for RR it was Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican; the Archer book refers to the rule Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.

    Alvin Toffler had The Third Wave.

    Golfers, of which my brother is one, like to drink in The Nineteenth Hole.

    The Thirteenth Floor is fairly iconic, I would have thought. There's even a film based on the Daniel F. Galouye novel Simulacron-3.

    Also – I am The Millionth Visitor to this webchannel and I claim my £5!

  44. Narmitaj said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

    I suppose you can get Definite Article + Double Ordinal Numbers + Noun – The First Fifth Beatle, for instance (either Stuart Sutcliffe or Pete Best). There have probably been several 11th Commandments too. But nothing springs to mind as iconic.

    "Last" isn't numeric the way "First" is, of course, but there are a fair few iconic terms with the sense of an ending rather than beginning… The Last Judgment, The Final Solution, The Terminal Beach (JG Ballard), The Final Countdown, The Omega Point. The Last Word.

  45. Stephen Hart said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 5:58 pm

    I'm not sure I understand the rules, but what about The Five Orange Pips?

  46. Chris said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 6:26 pm

    I'd add The Fourth Wall (sometimes broken in theater and film).

  47. Chips Mackinolty said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:28 pm

    The nth degree?

  48. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 8:46 pm

    There's one obvious pattern here which I suspect will yield further examples if people think of various permutations. When there are conventionally X Y's (four Beatles, seven wonders, ten commandments, eighteen holes on a golf course, etc.), "the X+1th Y" is an obvious construction. The U.S. football sense of "the twelfth man" would be one such instance.

  49. Ray said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 9:35 pm

    'the fifth wheel' (which has been perverted these days to 'the third wheel')

    'the ninth circle' (of hell)

  50. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

    Lawrence Sanders wrote novels called The Sixth Commandment,The Tenth Commandment, The Eighth Commandment, and The Seventh Commandment. For honorable mention, he also wrote The First Deadly Sin through The Fourth Deadly Sin.

    Arthur Koestler wrote The Thirteenth Tribe.

    There was an Italian SF movie called The Tenth Victim.

    Not sure how iconic any of those are.

  51. Gregory Barros said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 10:24 pm

    "The Ninth Configuration" (Film, 1980)
    "The 10th Victim" (aka "The Tenth Victim," Science Fiction Film,1965 )
    "The Eleventh Hour" (Animated film, 1942, featuring Superman)
    The Twelfth of Never" (Song, 1956, Johnny Mathis)
    The Thirteenth Tale" (Gothic Novel, 2006)

  52. Brett said,

    October 3, 2018 @ 10:46 pm

    @Ray: Solzhenitsyn's title The First Circle is already a reference to Hell. It refers to the setting of the novel—a sharashka, an urban prison camp for zeks with useful technical skills. Rather than being sent to the more brutal gulag facilities in Siberia, they were allowed to do research and engineering work in relatively mild conditions. The author had experienced almost all the levels of the gulag system, and he felt that the sharashka was the least horrific—hence, the first circle of hell.

  53. Chas Belov said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 1:50 am

    The Third Man (1949 film noir)

  54. Philip Taylor said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 5:11 am

    Er, Chas — already listed, in the opening post !

  55. richardelguru said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 5:43 am

    The Infinite Monkey Theorem would seem to be a good stopping point.

  56. RP said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 5:55 am

    "Third Reich" is a well known one.
    And "Third International" (though perhaps it was better known to the general public as the Comintern).
    That also leads on to some examples of attempted fractional ordinals, albeit these examples are far from iconic. After the Third International was launched, and again after the Fourth International was created, there were smaller, short-lived attempts to create middle ways between the philosophies of the Second and Third, and Third and Fourth, internationals. These were variously dubbed the "Two-and-a-Half International" or "Second-and-a-Half International", etc. (These were not the organisations' actual names.)

  57. RP said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 6:00 am

    For French speakers phrases like "le neuvième art", i.e. Comic books or graphic novels etc, spring to mind, bud these phrases aren't well known among English speakers.

  58. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 7:16 am

    So do French speakers know what arts 1-8 are? (If there is a well-accepted list of eight arts, then 'the ninth art' would be an example of the thing J.W. Brewer mentioned.)

  59. Narmitaj said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 8:56 am

    Le septième art is cinema. It even had its own hotel in Paris, Hotel du 7e Art, 20 rue Saint-Paul, which I stayed in once in 1996 with my movie director brother. Replaced by Hotel Charles V.

  60. Narmitaj said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 9:08 am

    http://ca-m-interesse.over-blog.com/article-le-cinema-7eme-art-oui-mais-les-autres-47146556.html lists the various arts; apparently Hegel originally defined the first five:

    1. l'architecture
    2. la sculpture
    3. la peinture
    4. la musique
    5. la littérature (poésie)
    6. la danse, le théâtre et le cirque (les arts vivants).
    7. le cinéma (depuis le début du XXème siècle)
    8. la photographie, la télévision, la radio (les arts mediatiques)
    9. la bande-dessinée.

  61. JorgeHoracio said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 9:19 am

    The 25th hour
    Novel by C.V. Gheorghiu , 1967 film version
    (Another example for JVBrewer)

  62. TR said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 5:12 pm

    Graham Greene also wrote a The Tenth Man, oddly enough.

  63. John Lawler said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 7:09 pm

    The Forty-Second Division
    The Hundred-and-First Division
    … and a lot more.
    Most US Army divisions are named with this structure.

  64. Gwen Katz said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 8:38 pm

    The 5th Wave has the interesting distinction of being a number under 10 represented as a numeral.

  65. Troy S. said,

    October 4, 2018 @ 10:38 pm

    My first thought was Elizabeth Colbert's book The Sixth Extinction.

  66. Chas Belov said,

    October 5, 2018 @ 12:30 am

    @Philip Taylor: My bad.

  67. Jennifer Sheffield said,

    October 5, 2018 @ 1:18 pm

    The Fifth Sacred Thing
    (Similar to both The Fifth Element and The Fifth Elephant.)

  68. DaveK said,

    October 5, 2018 @ 3:31 pm

    Unless I missed it above, no one's mentioned Napoleon II's Second Empire.

  69. Robledo said,

    October 6, 2018 @ 3:10 pm

    It may be a little outdated or even politically incorrect today, but I'm surprised nobody thought of the Third World.

  70. Trogluddite said,

    October 6, 2018 @ 9:14 pm

    I can't be many people who, at some point in their lives, haven't had to be told do get something done for "The Umpteenth Time"! ;-)

  71. Trogluddite said,

    October 6, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

    ^^ Much as being "many people" would help me to multi-task better, I should have completed my hasty editing by changing "I" to "There"! :-s

  72. BZ said,

    October 8, 2018 @ 9:52 am

    The only ones actually known to me without looking anything up are The Fifth Element and The Sixth Sense, though I've never seen the second one. There is also "The First Commandment" which is the title of an episode of "Stargate SG1". I guess that says something about my (lack of) education. Though the fact I'm posting here says something else. What exactly I'm not sure. I can think of a bunch of "The Last" or "The Final" noun titles, but I suspect those don't count.

  73. James Wimberley said,

    October 8, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

    It is a rare pleasure to be shown wrong.

  74. Phil Jensen said,

    October 15, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

    An obscure but interesting book by one of my favorite authors, Geoffrey Household: The Third Hour. The title is a reference to the book of Acts, something on the order of "what's with those people speaking gibberish – they can't be drunk at 9 a.m."

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