The Top 10 Reasons for the Existence of Top 10’s
The Top 10 list has become a staple of newspapers, television, and magazines for a variety of reasons, the top ten being:
- Ten is a common and familiar number, the base of our number system. Numbers are rounded to 10 or to multiples of ten or tenths. The resulting distortion, of course, need not have much to do with reality. We’re told, for example, that we use 10 percent of our brain power, that 10 percent of us consume 90 percent of the world’s resources, and that decades define us.
- People like information to be encapsulated; they’re impatient with long, discursive explanations. They want the bare facts, and they want them now.
- The list is consistent with a linear approach to problems. Nothing is complex or convoluted; every factor can be ranked. If we do a, b, c, then x, y, or z will happen. Proportionality reigns.
- It’s a kind of ritual. Numbers are often associated with rites, and this is a perfect example.
- It has biblical resonance, the Ten Commandments being one of its first instances. Others are the ten plagues on the Egyptions, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Joseph’s ten brothers.
- The list can be a complete story. It has a beginning: 1, 2, 3; a middle: 4, 5, 6, 7; and an end, 8, 9, 10. Many stories in the news are disconnected; the list is unitary.
- It’s easy to write; there is no need to come up with transitions. Or even complete sentences. The same holds for the 10, 50, and 100 YEARS AGO TODAY fillers.
- It’s flexible and capable of handling any subject. Since there are never any clear criteria for what constitutes an entry on such a list, items on short lists can easily be split, and those on long lists can just as easily be combined.
- Lists are widely read (or heard) and talked about, but don’t require much room in the paper or much airtime.
- People realize it’s an artificial form and like to see if it’s going to run out of good points before it gets to 10.
High School vs. College
25. In high school, you “do homework.” In college you “study.”
24. No food is allowed in the hall in high school. In college, food must be provided at an event before students will come.
23. In high school, you wear your backpack on one shoulder; in college on both.
22. In college, the professors can tell you the answer without looking at the teacher’s guide.
21. In college, there are no bells or tardy slips.
20. In high school, you have to live with your parents. In college, you get to live with your friends.
19. In college, you don’t have to wait in a certain lunch line to be cool.
18. Only nerds e-mailed in high school. (Cool kids hadn’t heard of it.)
17. In high school, you’re told what classes to take. In college, you get to choose; that is, as long as the classes don’t conflict and you have the prerequisites and the classes aren’t closed and you’ve paid your tuition.
16. In high school, if you screw up you can usually sweet-talk your way out of it. In college, you’re lucky to ever talk with the professor.
15. In high school, fire drills are planned by the administration; in college, by the drunk frat boys on their way home when the bars close.
14. In college, any test consists of a larger percentage of your grade even than your high school final exams did.
13. In high school, when the teacher said, “Good morning,” you mumbled back. In college, when the professor says, “Good morning,” you write it down.
12. In high school, freshman guys hit on senior girls. In college, senior guys hit on freshman girls.
11. In college, weekends start on Thursday.
10. In college, it’s much more difficult to figure out the course schedule of the man/woman you have a crush on in order to figure out where he/she will be walking around campus and at what time to find them there.
9. Once you’ve obtained the information described in #10 it’s much more time-consuming to run between classes to that place where you know he/she will be in order to “just happen to bump into him/her.”
8. In college, there’s no one to tell you not to eat pizza three meals a day.
7. In college, your dad doesn’t pay for dates.
6. In high school, it never took 3 or 4 weeks to get money from Mom and Dad.
5. College men are cuter than high school boys.
4. College women are legal.
3. In college, when you miss a class or two or three, you don’t need a note from your parents saying you were skip….uh, sick that day.
2. In high school, you can’t go out to lunch because it’s not allowed. In college, you can’t go out to lunch because you can’t afford it.
1. In college, you can blow off studying by writing lists like this.