Eduard Selleslagh edsel at
Wed Aug 11 07:48:03 UTC 1999

>To risk being severely off-topic ---

>My translation would be (this being Nostradamus, there are a number of
>obscurities in the text, of course):

>In the year one thousand nine hundred ninety nine, seven months,
>>>From the sky will come the great King of Terror
>To revive the great King of Angolmois
>Before and after, Mars to rule playfully.

>I believe that this text is in relatively standard Middle French, and
>not Langue d'Oc.  I am going to have to change that signature, since it
>seems not to have come to pass <g>.  At any rate, most Nostradamus buffs
>seem to believe that it refers to Armageddon and the Judgment Day
>occurring in July 1999.

>(Unless, of course, these prophesies run on the Old Style calendar, in
>which case there is still a week or so for Armageddon to start.)

>The King of Angolmois is usually claimed to be a distorted version of
>-Mongolois-, referring to a revived Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, and
>perhaps the prophesied Antichrist.  (It might be likelier to mean a king
>from Angoule^me, but that hardly seems as dramatic.)

>To get back slightly on topic, from a linguistic viewpoint, one of the
>interesting things about Nostradamus' text is how it came to pass that
>the perfectly sensible word he used for "ninety" (nonante) got replaced
>in Academy French by "quatre-vingt-dix."  I've seen the explanation
>mooted that the quatre-vingt numbers are a holdover from ancient
>Gaulish, and didn't know that we knew enough Gaulish to tell.  But
>perhaps so long as the French Academy staves off the moral horrors of
>creeping decimalism, the Antichrist will be kept at bay.

>Steven A. Gustafson, attorney at law

[Ed Selleslagh]
I would rather say 'luckily' instead of 'playfully'.

'Nonante' is still standard Belgian and Swiss French.  The Swiss even use
'octante' instead of 'quatre-vingts'. By the way, the French don't use
'septante' either, but 'soixante-dix'. What about the Quebecois? They
usually speak rather old-fashioned French (to European ears) (I've been
there twice, but didn't pay attention, probably because  I already had
enough trouble with 'cent' and 'sans', which sound the same to all but to
the Quebecois).

I don't know about Gaulish having had a twenty-based number system (nothing
unusual in the world, cf. Mayas), but Basque (and presumably Aquitanian,
spoken in SW France 2000 years ago) certainly has one, and in a very
consistent way, up to eighty-nineteen.  It is of course possible that
Gaulish inherited some of this when the Celts conquered most of present-day
France.  Note that Welsh (p-Celtic, probably like that of the Belgae,
probably self-named  'balchai' in their language) shows some traces of
(former?) ergativity, which might have a similar origin. Until we know more
about the pre-Celtic linguistic situation in territories that became
Celtic, the Vasconic component, substrate, or whatever it might be called,
should not be written off out of hand, IMHO.
I find it difficult to believe that 'quatre-vingts' is an Academy
invention: more probably a carefully preserved (regional? Parisian?)
archaeism made fashionable again.

Note: the French Revolution is at the origins of the extreme decimalism in
non-British Europe (metric system, decimal currency, they even decimalized
the week - something that wasn't popular and hence didn't last: imagine a
sunday every ten days...). The English must feel very sad the French - of
all people - and not they themselves have a non-decimal number system ;-)

Finally, if the Old Style (Julian) calender still applied, Nostradamus
might have been referring to the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999. I guess
it could have been predicted by calculus in his days, at least by some


Eduard Selleslagh
B-9120		Haasdonk (Beveren)
Phone & Fax: +32-3-775.69.69	E-Mail: edsel at

More information about the Indo-european mailing list