Saturday, 22 September 2007

Counting in French

Opinions about the French are quite divided: some people hate them, others, like me, love them. They are different; they know that and are proud of it. It begins at the very basics. When you learn to count in different languages, you usually start with small numbers, and then go up to the tens. Usually, there are some special cases in the 11-20 area, but then it becomes quite regular, each group of ten starting with some variation of the first number and then, the second number is regular.
So, you are quite jolie learning numbers in French, you reach soixante-neuf (69) and you go to septante.
Arretez! All your instincts are wrong: It is soixant-dix. Yes, sixty-ten. And as if this weren't fou enough, how do you say eighty? Quatre-vingt; exactly, four times twenty (and don't get me started on ninety three)
This post was inspired by a colleague who explained me that accountants actually use the other form, more traditional in other languages in order not to mix numbers, but you would never use them in the street. After some research, I have realized that these numbers might be used in Belgium and Switzerland, but I didn't experience that first-hand. If you click in the links (come on, do that, I spend a lot of time linking), you can see that other European languages use these vigesimal numeration; really mainstream languages like Basque and Gaelic . Just opposite of what Asterix said, Ils sont fous ces gaulois! (and I love them for that!)

PS: cheap Google ad, it is really fun when your colleagues explain these strange things!
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