Yan, tan, tethera, methera …

…  so the shepherd would count his sheep in the Bilsdale dialect. He would use a counting system passed down through the generations from the Celtic language. Each region, even each dale, has its own variation but all are based on the number twenty (as opposed to our decimal base).

So in the Lakes it is yan, tan, tether, nether … ; in Wensleydale: yain tain, eddero, peddero; in Cornwall: eena, mea, mona, mite …; and in East Anglia: ina, mina, tehra, methera …

From these last two it is recognisable that some familiar children’s counting rhymes are also derived from the same Celtic language: eenie, meenie, miny, mo … Hickory, dickory, dock comes from the words for eight, nine and ten: hovera, dovera, dick.

Back to the sheep. I think they’re Scottish Blackface making the most of their winter grazing off Cross Lane, Little Ayton.


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