# nine

Nine is a number long considered to have strange, mystic properties. A phrase in
a book written during the Dark Ages gave rise to the superstition that cats
have nine lives. English author and satirist William Baldwin wrote in his *Beware the Cat*, "It is permitted for a witch to take her cat's body
nine times." There were nine Muses, nine rivers of Hades, and nine heads
on the Hydra. It took nine days for Vulcan to fall from the heavens. The
phrase "nine days' wonder" comes from the proverb "a wonder lasts nine days
and then the puppy's eyes are open." A cat-o'-nine-tails is a whip, usually
made of nine knotted lines or cords fastened to a handle that produces scars
like the scratches of a cat. Being on "cloud nine" may have its origin in
Dante's ninth heaven of Paradise, whose inhabitants are blissful because
they are closest to God. The term "the whole 9 yards" came from World War
II fighter pilots in the Pacific. When arming their planes on the ground,
the .50-caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before
being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a
target, it got "the whole 9 yards." Less certain – though there is
no shortage of theories – is the sources of the expression "dressed
to the nines."

Nine is the largest single-digit number and the one that occurs least frequently in most situations; an exception is the tendency of businesses to set prices that end with one or more 9's. Because 9 is one less than the base of our number system, it is easy to see if a number is divisible by 9 by adding the digits (and repeating on the result if necessary). This process is sometimes called

**casting out nines**. Similar processes can be developed for divisibility by 99, 999, etc. or any number that divides one of these numbers. Nine has many other interesting properties. For example, write down a number containing as many digits as you like, add these digits together, and deduct the sum from the first number. The sum of the digits of this new number will always be a multiple of nine.