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'Four score and seven years ago': learning the Danish counting system

I came across this on a friend’s Facebook wall – and laughed (mind you, the Danish one is not completely correct).

When I started learning Danish, I could not figure out the counting system at all! But then two things happened:

I asked my husband about it – turns out he’s one of the few Danes I know, who can actually explain the Danish counting system and knows the full names of all the numbers – cos it ain’t just syvoghalvfems (7 and half fifth); it’s syvoghalvfemsindstyvende (7 and half-fifth-times-twenty)!

And secondly, I was doing an English lesson, ironically enough, about the English language, and I was using the Gettysburg address: ‘Four score and seven years ago’ – a light bulb moment: English had a similar vigesimal system of counting based on twenty, but it changed to a 10-based (decimal) system.

Interestingly, though Danish never officially changed to a decimal system – it has a decimal system, which it uses for some banking transactions: femti (50), seksti (60), syvti (70), otti (80), niti (90). This system is almost identical to the Swedish and Norwegian counting systems.

By the way, the full numbers are:

10. Tiende

20. Tyvende

30. Tredivte

40. Fyrretyvende

50. Halvtredsindstyvende

60. Tresindstyvende

70. Halvfjerdsindstyvende

80. Firsindstyvende

90. Halvfemsindstyvende

Happy counting!


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