Accounting History - European Connections to Numeration

History of Accounting > European Connections

The word million, derived from the Italian milionc, means a big thousand, just as balloon means a big ball, saloon, derived from salonc, a big sola.

For 1000 millions the French now use the word milliard as well as billion. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a French billion was a million of millions ; its present meaning in France dates from the eighteenth century.

In old French, numbers expressed by thousands, hundreds, tens, and units had the various denominations connected by et (and). This conjunction is now suppressed except before un and onze.

The names of the ordinal numbers come from the corresponding cardinals, except in the case of premier. Twentyfirst, however, is vingt et unieme.

In German the names of the cardinal numbers from 1-20, 30-100, 1000 closely resemble our own. For 21, 22, Germans say ein und zwanzig, zwei und zwanzig, and not zwanzig cin.

As in Greek and Latin, so in German there is found the idiom viertehalb (the fourth a half) for 3£, elftehalb (the eleventh a half) for 10J. Instead, however, of zweitehalb for 1£ they use andcrthalb, from ander (other), in the sense of second.

The Germans still retain what seems to us a peculiarity in their expression of time. Thus they say halb zwei (half two) for half-past one, halb zehn (half ten) for half-past nine This mode of expression is exactly paralleled in the Scottish dialect, where half twelve means half-past eleven, and so on. A similar idiom is found in French, in some Eastern languages, and in Icelandic, where half the fourth hundred = 350, half the fourth ten = 35, and so on.

Our own names for numbers show few peculiarities in their composition, the exceptions being the names for the cardinal numbers eleven and tzvelve, and the ordinals first and second. Eleven is obviously the same word as Anglo-Saxon endlufon, Gothic ainlif, German eilf or elf, but whether it stands for one left (after the base, ten, is taken away) is somewhat doubtful. Twelve is supposed to stand for two left (after ten is taken away), and is derived from the Teutonic base, twalif. First is the superlative of a word meaning before, and second is derived from the Latin secundus.

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