Italian’s a language I don’t speak,
Well, not really, although I can eke
Out a phrase or two when I am there,
Unmindful of mistakes, since they don’t care.
But when Italians tell me what I owe,
I smugly feel that I am in the know.
Although I am not trained in rocket science,
I still can make out with easy reliance
That a certain amount is requested
And that my skill at math is not being tested.
There’s a word for ninety, one for eight.
Know those words, then you can relate
Their way of counting to our own.
Nothing too fancy, or too high-flown.
Not at all like France, that is to say,
Where nutty numbers hold their sway.
Yes, France, where they claim reason is supreme,
But where enumeration makes you scream
The simple Sixty-nine is quite okay
(I speak of numbers, must I once more say?)*
Above sixty-nine, though, things get obscene
Look at sixty-ten – see what I mean?
Or – can you bear it? – sixty-eighteen.
France! Where grammes and metres first came on line
In seventeen four twenty ten and nine!
*Cf., Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. “ … my home at my uncle’s brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices, I saw enough. Now, do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.