Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

When I first heard of this shepherds' system of counting sheep, I wondered why they didn’t use the normal ‘One, two, three’. Then it dawned on me that in the early days, literacy and numeracy would be rare amongst farm labourers and shepherds, hence the this system.

There are other methods of counting, I suppose eeny. meeny miney, moe is one. They reckon these systems of counting came down from the Celtic language

There are many variations of this counting language. This one was used up until the 19th century in the Lake District and other parts of the North of England.

Here is how shepherds counted the first twenty sheep:

  1. Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methera, Pimp, Sethera, Lethera, Hovera, Dovera, Dik, Yan Dik, Tan Dik, Tethera Dik, Methera Dik, Bumfit, Yan Bumfit, Tan Bumfit, Tethera Bumfit, Methera Bumfit, Jigget.

When the shepherd got to twenty he would raise his index finger and start again. When he had all five fingers up it would mean he had got to 5x20 When I first heard or one hundred.

Then he would put a stone in his pocket and start again.

How about trying yan, tan, tethera . . . . tonight when you go to bed?

Yan, Tan

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