1. ## Teens

My four year old son has asked me a question that I cannot answer. It doesn't belong here but I don't know where else to put it.

Max can count to 10 no problem. He can also count from 20 to 100.

But according to Max the numbers between 10 and 20 are:

ten one
ten two
ten three
ten four
ten five
ten six
ten seven
ten eight
ten nine

And to be honest I can't fault the logic. Can anyone tell me why the numbers between 10 and twenty were singled out for their own strange names?

2. ## Re: Teens

etymology - Why do eleven and twelve get unique words and not end in "-teen"? - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange

has some interesting discussion on the topic.

Apparently different cultures stop using unique names for number at different places. English has unique names for 11 and 12 because using base 12 was common. Spanish has unique names up to 15, etc.

3. ## Re: Teens

Primitive cultures do not always use 10 as the exclusive base for their number system. Many African languages use 5 as a base. Moreover, primitive peoples frequently use multiple bases. For example, French shows remnants of base 20 (as does English to a much lesser degree as in "four score and seven years ago") as well as base 10. And there was frequent use of 12, 60, and 360 as a base. We still divide time into 2 * 12 hours a day, with 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Until the 19th century, virtually all of western Europe had a complex system of weights with the largest weight divided into twentieths, that next weight divided into twelfths, and that weight divided into fourths.

Much of the reason for this is lost in history, but sometimes it can be retrieved. In the Middle Ages, each town had its own weights and measures although they may have used the same name. We still talk of troy ounces, which derived from the standard weight used in the town of Troyes, which was a major trading center in the Middle Ages (one of the Fairs of Champagne was held there). Even in the same country, many different standards of measurement were used, which sometimes led to weird results: what the English called a hundredweight was 112 English pounds, which may have been approximately equal to 100 Flemish pounds (livres). The English called 20 hundredweight a ton, which meant a ton was 2240 pounds, a very odd looking number. For a time in Britain, it was actually a crime to call 100 pounds a hundredweight.

EDIT: Actually, the names for the numbers 13 through 19 are not that strange. Thirteen is just three-ten, very close to what your son is saying. It is eleven and twelve that are not obviously related to base 10 although twelve shows an affinity to two.

4. ## Re: Teens

I might add that the Kwakiutal natives of the northern pacific coat of North America had what was essentially a "base 4" numeration system. That was apparently because, rather than counting on their fingers, they counted on the spaces between the fingers.

5. ## Re: Teens

It's believed that Asian children are advantaged at mathematics at a young age because their etymology for their numbers follows the exact format in the original post. For example, in Japanese, their starting digits are ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku, nana, hatchi, ku, ju (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten), then go on to "ju-itchi, ju-ni, ju-san, ju-yon, ju-go, ju-roku, ju-nana, ju-hatchi, ju-ku, ni-ju" (ten-one, ten-two, ten-three, ten-four, ten-five, ten-six, ten-seven, ten-eight, ten-nine, two-tens (twenty) ).

It is infinitely more logical to me

6. ## Re: Teens

Vis-a-vis a ten year old it is sort of a life lesson isn't it, I mean ... it could be that way (ten one, etc), it would work, it might even be better/simpler that way, but the way it is works too, and that is the way it is ... for now.

Unfortunately many things could be better from a rational point of view from spelling rules to how we treat the earth and one another. How "it" works sort of works so that's the way it works ... until certain people speak up and start a conversation, then things might change, and that too is how it works. Good thinking young guy, a conversation was started.

7. ## Re: Teens

this is a pretty interesting topic.

I find counting in French is much easier for me.

8. ## Re: Teens

Originally Posted by Kiwi_Dave
My four year old son has asked me a question that I cannot answer. It doesn't belong here but I don't know where else to put it.

Max can count to 10 no problem. He can also count from 20 to 100.

But according to Max the numbers between 10 and 20 are:

ten one
ten two
ten three
ten four
ten five
ten six
ten seven
ten eight
ten nine

And to be honest I can't fault the logic. Can anyone tell me why the numbers between 10 and twenty were singled out for their own strange names?
this is exactly the names of numbers between 10 and 20 used by the greek language.....!!!

9. ## Re: Teens

Japanese, too, as far as I know.

-Dan

10. ## Re: Teens

Speaking of which, it reminded me of a Japanese video, where a Japanese is trying to speak (unfortunately broken) English.
This is how he went from 19-21: nineteen, TEN TEN, Ten ten one...
Then at 100, he was like: ten ten ten ten ten ten ten ten ten ten.