French name for decades and base 20 thought patterns

As a native English speaker who attended a French-immersion elementary school in Canada, I still shudder when I think of figuring out how to write “Mille neuf cent quatre vingt douze” numerically.

Indeed, I never thought about that, and anyway, since all other decades are called in the same way (années 30, années 40,…) it’s quite logical to use “les années 90”, “les années 70” too. There’s no much point in pointing out that the name of some of those years actually don’t begin by soixante dix or quatre vingt dix.
Regarding “teens”, we’d just use the word “adolescents” or often simply “ados”. “Préados” is also relatively common, referring to kids in between childhood and adolescence, generally 11 yo-13 yo. I wouldn’t call a 18-19 yo an “ado” anymore, personally (I’m probably putting the cutting age at the end of high school), but there isn’t any strict rule, since the word, contrarily to English, isn’t related to the number of years.
Also, over here, we don’t use a generic name for temperatures in say, the 30-39°C range. You have to be more precise. Which anyway is quite useful since 10°c is a greater variation than 10° F. I certainly want to know if it’s going to be 30° or 39° (respectively pleasantly hot and unbearably hot) before going out.

French-speaking Swiss here. I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but Swiss people usually say septante and nonante for 70 and 90. Some regions use quatre-vingts for 80, but in some of the rural cantons, e.g. the canton I was from, we said huitante for 80.

So, can I assume that, just like in English, the form ‘les année…’ doesn’t work all that well for the first decade of the century?

For the first decade, you would say “les années 1900” or “les années 2000”

Quebecer here and they say “les années quatre-vingt-dix.”

Why do the French always think we say septante and nonante? We completely don’t and to my knowledge never have! I got this all the time when I was in France, sometimes as the very first thing someone thought I was going to say because I’m from Quebec. It’s very weird. We count exactly the same way French people do.

(I still remember the first time I heard someone (a Belgian) just use the word *nonante *in casual conversation. It really threw me for a moment.

My mistake ! Sorry.

But in German and Scandinavian they are (don’t know about Dutch). And in Scandinavian 14 is not fourteen.

For an opposite datapoint, I’ve never had a French person believe that Quebecers say septante and nonante before Oukile in this thread. But I’ve been to France only once, I don’t remember the subject coming up, and French people in Quebec are quite aware of how Quebecers speak.

ETA: perhaps they make the link to “French-speaking country that is not France”, which to them (unless we’re jumping to very culturally different countries, in Africa for example) usually means Belgium and Switzerland?

Even though I expect it (when I see a Swiss person being interviewed on TV for example), it always sounds odd to my ears. It’s just because we don’t hear it often.

Also, does anyone know in which French dialects people say huitante and in which ones they say octante?

Double-plus good newspeak…?

Ten, tenty-one, Tenty-two, tenty-three, tenty-four, tenty-five, tenty-six, tenty-seven, tenty-eight, tenty-nine, twenty.

Posting again in this thread because I just heard a funny illustration of this phenomenon. On TV, a number of people from the town of Hamburg were being asked about the origin of the name “hamburger” (the sandwich) and couldn’t guess it (one even stated it was probably a word of French origin). Of course I’m sure they showed only people who were puzzled, but nevertheless it shows that one can be blind to the obvious when it comes to one’s own language.

According to French wikipedia, it still exists in the dialect of some regions in the south and east of France (they don’t mention which dialects, though. A personal guess could be Franco-Provençal, spoken in the eastern area close to the Swiss border).

Also, the article states that during the middle-age, numbers were expressed in Old French using the base 20 (for instance, vingt et dix instead of trente, deux-vingt instead of quarante, etc…). These numbers were replaced by trente, quarante (and septante, nonante…) and both systems were used simultaneously for some time. For unknown reasons, septante and nonante lost the fight, and were abandoned around the 17th century.

Finally, it notes that the origin of the so-called “vigesimal” system (counting using 20 as a base) could be Celt or could have been introduced by the Northmen (the reason being that it apparently spread for west to east). But according to another site, the origin is totally unknown, and has been also hypothetized to have appeared in late Latin or in Basque.

From another site (French, so I don’t link to it) :

-Gaelic and Basque use a complete vigesimal system using addition. For instance “two twenty and ten” = 50

  • Vigesimal system using division : Breton and Danish. For instance “half twenty and twenty” = 30.

-Incomplete vigesimal system (using sometimes the vigesimal system, sometimes the decimal system) : Welsh and French.
Also mentioned there :

-The decimal system is indo-European. It is used in all Indo-European languages except those Listed above.

-The vigesimal system isn’t. It appears in Basque, Maya, Georgian, Ainu. Indo-European languages could have borrowed it from pre-existing populations.

-The system using division (half of) and subtraction is specifically Danish, but can be noticed to some extent in the Roman and Etruscan counting system, partially in Breton and German for division, partially in Latin and Etruscan for subtraction.

This is not correct for Breton, where 30 is tregont. Tre is from the word for “3” (ordinarily tri (m.), teir (f.)) and -gont is a mutated form of -kont, ultimately the Indo-European word for 10 by a complex but fairly well-understood linguistic process. “Half twenty and twenty” would be **hanter ugent hag ugent, which sounds ludicrous. 50 is “hanter kant,” lit. “½ + 100,” and 60 is “tri-ugent” (3-20) again. I don’t understand your other Breton example toward the end of the quote.

Looking around, I found this in Patrick Le Besco’s Parlons Breton (=Let’s Speak Breton), 1997, p. 163. To simplify the thing I’ve added colour tags: Original paragraph in black with Breton words in Blue, my English translation of the French following in red.

Prenons l’exemple suivant 4876/2387 (niveau CM2), en breton traditionnel cela se dit (je mets le numérateur, 4876, en minuscules, et le dénominateur, 2387, en majuscules): pevar mil eizh kant c’hwezek DAOU VIL TRI C’HANT SEIZHVEDENN HA PEVAR-UGENT ha tri-ugent; c’est-à-dire, « quatre mille huit cent seize DEUX MILLE TROIS CENT SEPTIÈME ET QUATRE-VINGT et trois-vingt ».

Let’s take the following example: 4876/2387 (level CM2). In traditional Breton this would be said (I’m putting the numerator, 4876, in lowercase, and the denominator, 2387, in uppercase): [COLOR=“Blue”]pevar mil eizh kant c’hwezek DAOU VIL TRI C’HANT SEIZHVEDENN HA PEVAR-UGENT ha tri-ugent; that is, « four thousand eight hundred sixteen TWO THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED SEVENTH AND EIGHTY (literally, FOUR-TWENTY) and sixty (literally, three-twenty) ».[/COLOR]

The denominator goes in the same spot that an ordinary noun would do if we were talking about fish or rocks or something, and the “seventh” is fractional, not ordinal; the ordinal would be “seizhved,” no “-enn.”

I made up the example from my understanding of the process as explained in the article (*) I in fact didn’t know if the example was valid for this particular number in either Breton or Danish. It was just intended to illustrate the process. I should probably have mentioned it.

By the way, the “two twenty and ten” = 50 for Welsh and Basque is also a similarly made up example.

(*)the only actual example given was in fact half hundred for 50, which wasn’t really relevant, but it was also mentioned that half-twenty was placed before the number of “twenties” it was added to, so I picked the first relevant number (30) for my made up example “half twenty and twenty”.

Make that : for Gaelic and Basque

side note: Some of the first dial phones were introduced in an area where German immigrants predominated. A common mistake was to dial 21 (ein-und-zwanzig) as 12

On that, I know that in pre-contemporary English it was not anomalous to write numbers the same way Germans do: two-and-twenty and so forth. Was this ever generalized as it is in German, i.e. it would have been wrong to say “twenty-two”?

Irish has a mix of decimal and vigesimal. Both are used to some extent in different contexts.

There is a full set of “10s” words, for “normal” use:
20 fiche
30 triocha
40 daichead
50 caoga
60 seasca

If you look closely, you may notice that “daichead” originally meant “dá fhichid” or 2x20, but this etymology is probably opaque to modern users. In other words, it is a fossilised legacy of a vigesimal system.

There is also, for example when talking about people’s age, the option of saying “x score and y”. For example someone who died at the age of 87 would be “ceithre scór is a seacht mbliain d’aois” - four score and seven years old. In a similar vein, 50 can be called “leath-chéad” - half a hundred.

So to say modern Irish numbering is vigesimal is misleading, I think. It is mainly decimal with some vigesimal usage.