Why are two-digit numbers in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) written in “German style”?

I have been reading “Gulliver’s Travels” (Otherwise known more verbosely as “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships”), and I have noticed that two-digit numbers are often written in the “German” style, that is it say that the “tens” place is written after the “ones” place.

I marked one example recently, but I have seen several others. From page 125 of the Collins Classics (2010) edition:

“No law of that country must exceed in words the number of letters in their alphabet, which consists only in two-and-twenty.”

Some interior shots of the first edition show that the writing, apart from some minor differences still looks very much like contemporary English.

So my question is why the numbers are written like this. Was it common at the time for English speakers to say numbers this way? When did it change?


Putting the ones place before the tens place was formerly the primary way to discuss two-digit numbers like twenty-two. The Oxford English Dictionary, under “twenty, adj. and n.,” lists the Old English translation of his Histories:

c893 tr. Orosius Hist. vi. ii. 256 Þara twa & twentigra monna þe he him to fultume hæfde acoren.

In Early Modern English the two forms are both used. The OED cites an example with the form we’re more familiar with now:

1526 Proclam. 5 Nov. in Pat. Roll 18 Hen. VIII ii. m. 2 d The Soueraygne..shalbe curraunt..for twenty two shillynges and sixe pens.

As this previous StackExchange answer suggests, the Norman French influence shifted the order of numbering. Germanic numbering was finally supplanted around 1700, though dialects preserved the usage. Furthermore, literary authors sometimes tapped into the antiquated sense of the phrasing. For instance, even in the 20th century William Butler Yeats wrote If I Were Four-and-Twenty.

Source : Link , Question Author : wfgeo , Answer Author : TaliesinMerlin

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