one-and-twenty, two-and-thirty, three-and-forty…

This way of saying numbers in English, first with the unit number and then with the ten, hyphenated, is outdated today, but was usual in the past.

“At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,”

(The General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales, by G. Chaucer, 14th c.)

“Sing a song of sixpence, pocket full of rye
Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie”
(‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ Nursery Rhyme)

“Her face was that of a woman of three-and-twenty.” (The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald, 19th c.)

This was the Germanic way of saying numbers, which English, as a Germanic language, inherited from the Anglo-Saxon settlement.
However, this system was gradually replaced by the French way of counting, which uses first the tens and then the units.
The Germanic way remains today in numbers thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen.




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