Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Top Ten Reasons to hate French numeration

Other than the Bablyonian language Βαβυλών no language has worse names for numbers than French

French starts normally (that is, like almost every other planetary language) with words that mean 1 through 10 (une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix). Notice the dark storm cloud of trouble. The French are so precious with their language so why would they use the English word "Six" to represent 6? Trouble lay ahead.

Like all romance languages we go into the special word name numbers: onze, douze, treize, quatorze, quinze, seize. That's 11 through 16, using word roots based on 1 through six elevated to the decimal of ten. Excellent syntax!

Then it all goes pear shaped. 17, 18, 19 are represented by words that translate as ten-seven, ten-eight, ten-nine. There is a brief moment of quiet and heuristic algorithmic sanity as we reach the verbal plateau "vingt". We are at the word for twenty.

From here on in French number names bear more resemblance to downhill skiing and children's Christmas wishes than they do to the brilliant mathematical logic that one otherwise associates with French intellect. BONUS- it's in "You do the math" format...

21= Vingt et un (translation Twenty plus one)
31= Trent et un (translation Thirty plus one)
41= Quarante et un (translation Fourty plus one)

The concatenation of numeraux Français continues thusly, more nursery rhyme than Principia Mathematica, until we arrive at the whopper of all number word names:
soixante-et-onze – translation: sixty and eleventy!!! If my child came home and stated the total of some mathematic operation was sixty plus eleventy, I would have him or her sent for testing for developmental handicaps.

Now their number name system degenerates into "you do the math” concatenations, viz
"soixante-dix-neuf" sixty-ten-nine (79 in any language normally used to express mathematics)
The penultimate point of derivation is reached at
"quatre-vingt-dix-huit" A name which means four, twenty, ten, eight. But you have to be French to know that means four TIMES twenty PLUS ten PLUS eight.

If the French hadn't given us soixante-neuf it would be impossible to forgive them.

For now, I say 34 and one half. Anytime, anywhere. You have my email address. Smooches

1 comment:

  1. Un P'tit Oiseau dit

    Hilarious! I love it. And absolutely well said! I will not take umbrage to the mild criticism of the French in there as I am totally immersed in the nonsense of the French language every day and struggling with my own sense of preciousness about it all.

    Thank you for sharing

    Mme Etoile...