Elves doing math and counting in base 12

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Here JRRT provides evidence that England is the place on Middle-earth where the influence of the Elves has lingered longest.

It was obviously a relic of Elvish ways which inspired the old English coinage system, with 12 pennies to the shilling.

Unfortunately, Elvish influence continues to fade, as in 1971, in a foolish, misguided, and retrograde step, British currency was decimalized.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Here JRRT provides evidence that England is the place on Middle-earth where the influence of the Elves has lingered longest.

It was obviously a relic of Elvish ways which inspired the old English coinage system, with 12 pennies to the shilling.

Unfortunately, Elvish influence continues to fade, as in 1971, in a foolish, misguided, and retrograde step, British currency was decimalized.
Currency being it itself such an un-elvish concept, I do think elves would not have really minded that.
We know of some in Gondor, Shire, Bree and Laketown but never hear of currency in connection with the elves. Being immortal the idea of paying wages as a recompense for invested life-time and effort into producing something would seem strange indeed.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Currency being it itself such an un-elvish concept, I do think elves would not have really minded that.
We know of some in Gondor, Shire, Bree and Laketown but never hear of currency in connection with the elves. Being immortal the idea of paying wages as a recompense for invested life-time and effort into producing something would seem strange indeed.
True Odola,

But I do not think that currency is the important thing here. Rather it is the distant reflection of Elvish math and counting rolling down the millennia to affect the counting system for English money. Now, even this trace of the Eldar Days is gone. Alas!
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
True Odola,

But I do not think that currency is the important thing here. Rather it is the distant reflection of Elvish math and counting rolling down the millennia to affect the counting system for English money. Now, even this trace of the Eldar Days is gone. Alas!
Everything round is still counted in multiples of 6 and 12. Like hours. Months of the years. So plenty of traces there.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Everything round is still counted in multiples of 6 and 12. Like hours. Months of the years. So plenty of traces there.
Yes, there are still traces. All I am saying is that in JRRT's lifetime, having the Elves calculate in base 12 meant that England had more lingering traces of Elvish culture and customs than anywhere else. Which JRRT would have liked.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Yes, there are still traces. All I am saying is that in JRRT's lifetime, having the Elves calculate in base 12 meant that England had more lingering traces of Elvish culture and customs than anywhere else. Which JRRT would have liked.
I think it was because a coin is round and as such easy to divide in 6 with the help of a circle and then in halves and as it was used to pay wages for worked time which is also counted in 60 and 12 it did fit. The moment it became a sum on a bank account it became just a nuisance.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I think it was because a coin is round and as such easy to divide in 6 with the help of a circle and then in halves and as it was used to pay wages for worked time which is also counted in 60 and 12 it did fit. The moment it became a sum on a bank account it became just a nuissance.
Yes, it became enough of a nuisance that most of the world went to decimal for their currency more than 100 years before England did. If England had just hung on with base 12 currency for another 20 years, computers would have eliminated the nuisance.
 

Halstein

Active Member
240 pence in a pound give us 20 divisors. 100 pence in a pound give us 9 divisors. Until I learnt some number theory, I believed the decimal system was better, now I know I was mistaken.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
240 pence in a pound give us 20 divisors. 100 pence in a pound give us 9 divisors. Until I learnt some number theory, I believed the decimal system was better, now I know I was mistaken.
To cheat illiterate peasants out of their earned wages anyday, those counted on their fingers and could at most grasp a simple decimal system, the more complex the system, the easier it is to cheat simple people - for sure ;).
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Back with the old money system, British people in general were better at math than most other countries. They had to be. How do you make change when something costs 3/4, and your customer gives you a crown? Simple, 1/8!

Is this to blame for the industrial revolution starting in England?
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Back with the old money system, British people in general were better at math than most other countries. They had to be. How do you make change when something costs 3/4, and your customer gives you a crown? Simple, 1/8!

Is this to blame for the industrial revolution starting in England?
I can imagine the broadly undetstood middle class being it. (And now can understand why Mr Bennet had a headache doing the accounts in BBC's Pride and Prejudice.) But simple people without the ability to write down while counting were at a great disadvantage and this imho partly intended. Decimalisation was also a democratisation of currency.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
If you're going to invoke 19the century literature, I will say that I couldn't help smiling through the discussion of English coinage, thinking of Anthony Trollope's political novels. Plantagenet Palliser, one of the truly great characters he ever created, was obsessed with the idea of changing English currency to decimal coinage.

I think base 12 is natural, as the months of the years, and other things that occur in cycles. It would make sense that Tolkien would tie the elves to a natural numerical base, though I hadn't thought of it. I will say that the old coinage is the first thing I thought of in those early chapters.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
If you're going to invoke 19the century literature, I will say that I couldn't help smiling through the discussion of English coinage, thinking of Anthony Trollope's political novels. Plantagenet Palliser, one of the truly great characters he ever created, was obsessed with the idea of changing English currency to decimal coinage.

I think base 12 is natural, as the months of the years, and other things that occur in cycles. It would make sense that Tolkien would tie the elves to a natural numerical base, though I hadn't thought of it. I will say that the old coinage is the first thing I thought of in those early chapters.
That is true, but the idea of paying for (live-)time - the very idea that "time is money" would be foreign to elves.
 
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