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Thread: when i was one and twenty

  1. #1
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    when i was one and twenty

    Hi
    could you please explain to me why Housman shaid "one-and-twenty" instead of "twenty-one"
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    It sounds prettier?

  3. #3
    Watching You RicMisc's Avatar
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    I was gonna say the exact same thing, it just sounds better ..
    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past - The Great Gatsby

    Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice - Polonius (Hamlet)

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    in the 19th century and before that was the style of saying age, in all the poems and novels of the period, the custom to say 20 and 5, or 40 and 6 instead of 25 or 46, because that was the way it simply was.

    Of course the natural reaction is but surely saying 25 is better, because it is more concise and shorter. And I agree, but then again saying "thrice" my age is more concise and shorter than saying "three times" my age, but then the former was used and now we use the latter.

    So yea, just customs of language which we are obeisant to just as much as they were.

  5. #5
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lost man View Post
    Hi
    could you please explain to me why Housman shaid "one-and-twenty" instead of "twenty-one"
    Thanks
    well I am guessing that customs and habbits of telling one's age has not really changed throughout the ages. People are still very self conscious about their ages, women for sounding older and men for sounding too young.
    In victorian time that was the way they told their age.
    So I would say that saying 'one and twenty' is better then 'twenty one' because the former takes the 'one' away from '21' and makes it sound closer to 'twenty'.
    another example:
    'five and twenty' sounds better then 'twenty five' because the first one sounds that you are still in your 'twenties'. It is psychological I think.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Wild is the Wind Silas Thorne's Avatar
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    'four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie
    when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing
    wasn't it a dainty dish to set before the king?'
    '...the rain
    is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
    Upon the glass and listen for reply'

    Edna St. Vincent Millay, 'What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why'

  7. #7
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I would have to agree with Alexander that that was the normal way of expressing numbers in the 19th century. It was the Germanic way, as it is still practiced in Dutch and German. The modern and French way of saying numbers only occurred in the last half of the 19th century.

    I expect Housman was being lyrical (it depends when he wrote the poem you are referring to). The Germanic numbering way must have stayed behind in lyrical language when it comes to written language.

    It is probably now still around in dialects.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

  8. #8
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silas Thorne View Post
    'four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie
    when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing
    wasn't it a dainty dish to set before the king?'
    Hummm...not it wasn't haha
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  9. #9
    Seasider
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    Quote Originally Posted by lost man View Post
    Hi
    could you please explain to me why Housman shaid "one-and-twenty" instead of "twenty-one"
    Thanks
    Scansion.

  10. #10
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Then there was the song with the line:
    "Then I turned one and twenty, and the world turned upside down."

  11. #11
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    Then there was the song with the line:
    "Then I turned one and twenty, and the world turned upside down."
    Now that's a song haha.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  12. #12
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    Now that's a song haha.
    Yes, it is, but I can't find the full lyrics for it.

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