You Are Number Six

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Ha-ha! In your FACE, Number 6!
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Prisoner: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number, I am a free man!
Number Two: *evil laugh*

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When a character has a number as a name.

Usually this carries dehumanizing implications. This can be for (at least) two overlapping reasons:

  1. The character is a construct or robot, whose creators regard it as non-sentient (or at least did when they were handing out names). The number is a serial number or shortening thereof.
  2. The character is a prisoner or otherwise an inhabitant of a large bureaucratic institution, which assigns people numbers to keep track of them.

For some reason, these implications are usually somewhat lessened when the number in question is "zero". They also don't necessarily apply to spy or superhero Code Names that are numbers, unless they become part of a Secret Identity Identity. Having a low number (i.e. in the single digits) as a name is generally considered less humiliating than a large one.

Science Fiction stories, especially dystopias, are likely to use this trope to some extent. It's also common for prisoners to have serial numbers instead of names.

Note that several languages have numerical names (Japanese and Latin being the most likely to be encountered). In this case, the kids will be named in order of birth: literally, "first child", "second child", etc.

Bizarrely, this can actually also serve to humanize beings that have never had separate identities before. If you have a race of robots or drones that become sentient, they may adopt their numbers as their actual names.

See also: Numerical Theme Naming where many characters have names that incorporate or are numbers, and Seven Is Nana for Japanese characters named Nana as in "seven". And Heaven help you if your name is "Four" or any derivative thereof. Or 666.

Compare One-Letter Name. Not to be confused with I Am Number Four.

Examples of You Are Number Six are listed on these subpages:


Examples of You Are Number Six include:

New Media

  • In Conquering the Horizon Evelyn is a Hive Mind. Her individual bodies usually have semi-independent lines of thought and emotions, but they are still very much linked like a proper hive mind (same memories, know each others location, access each others senses, access to each others thoughts, and a given body considers itself much more expendable than the body (and life) of a non-hive mind person). Individual Evelyns often have a model name (based on the body type) and a number:
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And so we gather here today to honor three great Evelyns, Tinkerbell Enhanced Five, Seven, and Eleven. Though we were too lazy to give them more original names, the Star Wars reference was totally worth it.
—"Mr. Mooshi" (Evelyn),  Conquering the Horizon
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Newspaper Comics

  • In the early 1960s, Peanuts had a character named 5 (full name 555 95472). His sisters were 3 and 4. 5 said that his father named his kids that way as a reaction to all the numbers (such as the then-new ZIP Code) being put on people in modern life.
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Lucy: This is his way of protesting, huh?
5: No, this is his way of giving in!

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Tabletop Games

  • Some of the warforged in Eberron are known by number.
  • Magic the Gathering has the Phyrexian outcast Xantcha. She explains in the novel Planeswalker that "Xantcha" in Phyrexian is the number of the box she was assigned to sleep in. One of her first acts of rebellion was to continue thinking of herself as "Xantcha" after being moved to a different position, turning it into a personal name rather than the designator of an interchangeable part.
  • In Paranoia, all citizens have names like John-R-ZAE-3 (Red security clearance, home sector ZAE, third member of his clone family, i.e. the first two already died and had their memories transplanted). If it's a Punny Name, then occasionally the number is part of it (like Woody-G-UTH-3 writing music for vidshows).

Theatre

  • Elmer Rice's stage play The Adding Machine, a surrealist fantasy written in the 1920s and still performed frequently, is about a hopeless non-entity who works in a corporation where all the employees have numbers for names. His name is Mister Zero, signifying that he is the lowliest person of all...not just in the company, but in the larger society as well.
  • Les Misérables is under Literature, but worth mentioning again.
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"24601..."
"My name is Jean Valjean!"

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  • Claude from the musical Hair at one point gives an emotional speech about how being drafted for duty in Vietnam has reduced him from a human being to just another number on a government filing system.
  • The song "Close Every Door" from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat addresses Nazi concentration camps with "Just give me a number, instead of my name/ forget all about me, and let me decay..."