Sandy's Ramblings

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chinese Numbers

We have some weird numbers in English, 13 is unlucky and whatnot, but they are few and far between. Chinese, however, is a different pot of meat.

As mentioned in a previous post on here, the Chinese like to reuse sounds - as a result, a lot of their numbers sound like other words and a sequence of numbers can even make a sentence, and they put a lot of stake in this.

These are the ones that I am aware of:

1 - normally pronounced 'ee' but when saying a sequence of numbers, like a phone number, it is pronounced 'yow'. This happens to sound the same as the word for 'to want'.
4 - pronounced a bit like 'sung' without the 'ng', which is almost exactly the same as the word 'death' or 'to die'.
5 - pronounced 'wu'. The word for 'I' is 'wo', which is fairly similar.
8 - pronounced 'ba', which they claim is similar to 'fa' which means 'to become rich'.
9 - pronounced 'jior', exactly the same as the word for 'just'.

Consider the following sequences:

514 - I want to die.
5914 - I just want to die.
518 - I want to become rich.

Since 4 is 'to die' and hence unlucky, lots of buildings in China do not have fourth floors. Also, a bit more strangely, when you buy a cellphone package that comes with a phone number - the price is heavily determined by the number itself! It can range from about 30 kuai up to 300+ kuai depending on whether the number contains '5914' or '518' and so on. Madness.


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