I love language. Image source, no idea what thread, I don't use Reddit.

@dlek Languages have all kinds of different complicated number systems, and for some reason they are many times a real pain to learn.

But no other language has so far baffled me as much as Flemish sign language that used to have distinct, unrelated an completely irregular signs for numbers from 1 to 100.

@Stoori Bookmarked to check that out for after my workday--thanks :)

@dlek German is pretty similar in that regard as well

@wolf480pl 👍 Yes, I have just enough knowledge of German to have thought of this as well. It has occurred to me to create a new one about the length of compound words--English: "Compound word!" French: "Portemanteau!" German shows up: "Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz!"

@lucifargundam In French to say “ninety-nine” you say (in most French dialects, anyway) “quatre-vingt dix-neuf” which translates to “eighty nineteen” via “four twenties and ten and nine”.

As a native English speaker, that is really bazzar.

@dlek English allows the latter form too, and it was the accepted way to talk not that long ago.

@LovesTha Do you mean like “four score and seven years ago”? Or something else?

@dlek Yeah, and the classic biblical quote about 'three score and ten' is a good life

@popolon @ffeth @dlek Fun fact: Arabic got it right. We read the numbers backwards, because we write them backwards, because we copied them from Arabic which is written right-to-left.

@deshipu @ffeth @dlek but they use themselves Indo-Persian digits. Persians use Arabian script so from right to left (not sure they used it at the time of creation of Indo-Persian digits), from right to left, but Indian from left to right ^^.
@deshipu @dlek @ffeth I just see that Brāhmī version is very similar for 3 firsts digit to Chinese one (also used in Japan, and until ~1950 in Korea and Vietnam): 一二三 are the same, 四(4)五(5) change from sticks only.

@popolon @ffeth @dlek Well, it's the obvious way to write numbers, after all, at least the lower ones, where you can count the strokes at a glance.

@popolon @ffeth @dlek But Brāhmī didn't write numbers positionally — they didn't have zero. So the order of digits was introduces by Arabs.

@deshipu @ffeth @dlek Look at the Indian (Gwālior), they already have 0, wrote by a "." before Arabian script in genealogy

@popolon @ffeth @dlek It's time for me to admit that I don't have the knowledge for this discussion—no idea how pre-Arabic cultures wrote numbers and what order the digits were. Perhaps they were reversed several times in history.

@deshipu @ffeth @dlek Yes probably. zero is borrowed from Arabian صفر (ṣifr), that is itself borrowed from Sanskrit sunya. We call them Arabic, because Arabians bring them to Europe, probably via Arabo-Iberic Andalousian culture (now in Spain). The shape used worldwide, is European/North-Western Africa specific. The same way we call Gypsy (from Egyptia) or Rom (from Romania, if I'm not wrong), nomadic people coming from India (or today India/Pakistan), so this could be confusing.

@popolon @ffeth @dlek So I found this on Wikipedia (

> So, Veda/teeth/moon would correspond to the decimal numeral 1324, as the convention for numbers was to enumerate their digits from right to left.

@popolon @ffeth @dlek So they started with ones, then tens, hundreds, etc. just like Arabs. It just Europeans that got it wrong.

@popolon @ffeth @dlek lol took me a while to spot it, but looks like 100-1 is vatican city cos of the latin

@popolon > French isn't the Worst

> Shows map with Breizh being the Worst


@ffeth @dlek

@tfb @ffeth @dlek Danish is also nicely overcomplicated, take a look at the legend. 🤪 20 is used 2 time, one for his half (then adding 10) one for the multiplication by 4 to obtain 80.

@tfb @popolon @ffeth @dlek check Denmark... it's deceptive but way less understandable than a simple "4 x 20 + 19"... even Danish people generally don't know how that "score/halfscore" system works anymore, they just learn it that way.

@renatoram @tfb @ffeth @dlek What I understood of Danish one is: 9 + 4 * 20 + 1/2 (has legend wrote), so:
9 +
(4*20 =) 80 +
(20*1/2=) 10

@popolon @tfb @ffeth @dlek yeah, once you see it as a math formula isn't too bad, but the words used are really unfamiliar (even for Danes I believe?). So "and-half"... but and half what? The word doesn't say. Check this video at 01:56 (It's about 58, which is probably worse than 99, in Danish)

@popolon @tfb @ffeth @dlek from the youtube comments: "A lot of us Danes would find it just as weird as you do. To us, “halvtreds” is just a word that means 50. We don’t contemplate its etymology every time we use it."

@renatoram @tfb @ffeth @dlek I have time to look at the video, that was just for counting by hand in China, That's more practicle with one and, so you have the other hand free. But, in Japan and Korea, they use another method, where the digits are added when fingers are folded instead of unfolded. and add the other hand inside the palm of the counting (right) hand above five. Better, in Indian world, they use fingers phalanx to count, so you have 3 numbers by fingers*5 fingers*2 hands=30 numbers!, and you don't need to use two hands either.

On number ranks, in China,Korea,Japan,Vietnam, and I believe Mongolia too, this go from 1 to 1.0000 (萬/万)and not 1 to 1.000 (千). The 1.0000 number is also used for an infinity Like in Wansui (known for the Japanese transliteration, banzai), that means 1.0000 years of life/age: long life. This was typically addressed to the emperor at each visit in China. So that was also the meaning, by Japanese soldiers during fight: "Banzai" (to the emperor), the same way than Muslims warriors say "Allahu akbar" during fighting. That is used now to wish long life in general case. For example on forbidden city walls, at Tian'an men square, around president Mao portrait: "Long life to People Republic of China, long life to all the peoples of the Earth). Mongolians used "tumen" 1.0000 to count larger horses units during Mongolian Empire. Often with more horses than fighters. Sometimes with factice warriors on horses without warriors, to scare the invaded city. Their archery art was also very efficient.
@mpjgregoire @ffeth @dlek I think there is a mistake in legend: ha means and, so probably:
nav(9) and deg (10) and pevar-ugent (4*20) ?

@ffeth My understanding yesterday was that this is less common and certainly not how I learned it (Canada). Today I have a number of replies to read through that might be educational! :)


actually its four (times) twenty (plus) nineteen ;)

@dlek The book 'The universal history of numbers' by Georges Ifrah does a lot of comparisons between languages and their representations of numbers; I don't remember this one being mentioned, but I do remember it saying French has a lot of remnants of base 5/20 counting.

@dlek The hardest way for me was learning the Danish numbers…
"Let's look at 60 (and 80):
Tres (60) comes from tresindtyve (tre-sinde-tyve), which means 3 times 20
The same goes for 80: fir(e)sindetyve (4 times 20) = shortened to firs.
Sinde is an old word (now obsolete) meaning times

Now for the hard part: 50, 70, 90
Halv 3 = 2½, halv 4 = 3½, halv 5 = 4½
Halv 3 x 20 = halvtredje-sinde-tyve - shortened to halvtreds (50).
Halv 4 x 20 = halvfjerde-sinde-tyve - shortened to halvfjerds (70).
Halv 5 x 20 = halvfem-sinde-tyve - shortened to halvfems (90)."

@dlek Danish be like "nine and half five's nine"

@dlek If I knew photoshop I'd add another picture to this with some other meme character chasing them all off. It'd be labelled Danish and would say: NINE AND HALF FIVES.

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