Rory Stewart came across these numerals, apparently still used to count sheep by Cumbrian farmers.  They trot off the tongue like spring lambs, skippety, hoppity, gambol and stop:

‘yan, tan, tethera, methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dick, yan-a-dick, methera, bamfit, gigot’.   

The last one is reminiscent of the French version of roast lamb, ‘gigot d’agneau’.


Source: Rory Stewart, The Marches: Border Walks with my Father (London: Vintage, 2017), p. 154

Photo credit: 1899441 at pixabay


  1. shorna mavis mcleod

    I have the same counting words up to yan-a-dick but my list continues

    tyan-a-dick tethera-dick methera-dick bumfit

    yan-a-bumfit tyan-a-bumfit tethera-bumfit methera-bumfit gigot or possibly gissot

    I copied these from a very old Cumbria magazine I can’t remember the name, but there used to be one on Yorkshire as well. Maybe some of your older readers will know the one.

    • beatriceotto

      Many thanks for sharing this, it adds another layer to an intriguing set of numbers. Best wishes, Beatrice

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