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"Four score and seven years ago,
"our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation."
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address doesn't sound quite right in a British accent, I know.
But, I'm on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,
and it seems an appropriate thing to recite.
Let's have a talk about those first few words,
"Four score and seven years ago"
It's a weird way of putting "87" isn't it?
'Score' is an archaic term for twenty.
Why would a great orator choose that, and why does it sound so resonant?
Well, the answer goes back to base 20 counting. Vigesimal.
Which is used all over the world to this day.
There's some European languages who use it,
Welsh, traditionally used it. Although decimals have been slipping in lately.
There are African languages, American languages that use it all over.
And French used it as well.
If you ever learn French you will know that 87,
the number that Lincoln is talking about,
is "quatre-vingt-sept".
Four twenties, and seven. Four score, and seven.
It's resonant because it's a holdover from much older language.
It was used in the Bible,
not because of translations from older languages,
but because it sounds authoritative.
It sounds like the word of God.
At least, in the versions that still use archaic language.
Modern translations will tend not to.
So you have this old word that is used to bring up an old sense of 'this is how we used to be'.
It's used in speeches.
It's used in narration.
And it was used, of course, by the great Mr. Lincoln.
Something, from Washington DC, that you might not have known.
If I say I'm an old mate of Bazza's, do you think they'll let me in?
No. No, they... No.
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