Over the weekend, I asked Tom to mail a letter I had sitting on the table. He was on his way out with Dagny and grabbed the letter, giving it a quick glance before putting it in his pocket.
“Is that a 6?” he asked after glancing at the first digit of the postal code I had written.
“Uh yea, of course it’s a 6. What else would it be?” I replied.
“OK, and that 2nd digit, that’s a 2 right?” he continued.
At this point, I got up to take another look at my envelope thinking maybe the ink smeared or he was messing with me. But nope, it was my perfectly legible (to me) penmanship. Clearly a 6 and 2. And he was seriously asking me to clarify what I’d written.
He wasn’t entirely sure. He was pretty sure but had to check just in case.
Tom and I often have this number conversation when either one of us writes something down that contains a number. His 4’s confuse me. I always make sure his 1’s aren’t 7’s. He doesn’t like my loops. His number 9 looks like a lowercase g.
American vs. French: How we write numbers
It depends on the person, but the French write numbers a little differently than Americans do. I know that 9’s look like little g’s in France and have even adapted my American number style so that French people are 100% sure what I’m writing. Sometimes the French way confuses me and I need clarification, like when secretaries write down phone numbers for me or when the postman leaves something in the mailbox with a date or a number to call. It’s not always so clear what number is what.
Let me show you what I mean.
Here’s a slip that FedEx left for me when I wasn’t home. See the 9’s that look like g’s? The 1’s are almost like 7’s. (sorry it’s a little blurry)
In the pic below, Tom and I both wrote out numbers 1-9 (and Tom added a 10 for good measure).
Note: I used to write 7s like the 7 up top until about 6 years ago when Tom thought my 7s were 1s. I now put a bar through them. 7 is one digit we never need to clarify with each other since we both put a bar through the 7. But sometimes French people’s 1’s look like 7’s.
Also, remember that when writing dollar amounts, the French use a period where we’d use a comma and vice versa.
The way an American would write 20 dollars and 42 cents: 20.42
The way a French person would write 20 euros and 42 centimes: 20,42
Do people tell you they can’t read your numbers? How’s your handwriting?