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Superstition ain't the way.
January 11, 2002 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Superstition ain't the way. A new study confirms that you can actually be scared to death. They found a 13% increase in cardiac related deaths of Chinese and Japanese Americans on the fourth day of each month. In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, the pronounciation of the word 'four' (shi) is the same as the word for death. So be careful where you aim those fireworks the next 4th of July.
posted by euphorb (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm... Aren't there 2 words for 4 in Japanese? As I recall Yon, and Shi, shi does mean death. 9 is another number, it's Koo-u (Q), and Koo (ku), Ku can mean suffering. From what I've read, in Japan 4 and 9 are considered unlucky and are even eliminated from apartment buildings and such. I recall a building somewhere that didn't have a 13th floor, instead 12, then 14. Superstition is weird. Earlier this week I've heard that in lottery, as far as winning numbers go, 13 is one of the more successful ones, because everyone picks 3 and 7, which are the least successful.
posted by tiaka at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2002


Many, maybe even most, buildings don't have 13th floors. And the aversion to the number four is so common that town halls now frequently see people come down, at the advice of their Realtors to change the address of a house one is selling from "4" to "2" or "6" so that they don't the Asian buyers out of the bidding.
posted by MattD at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2002


what's funny is here in Vancouver, Canada where there is a recently acquired healthy-sized asian population, my (fairly-new) building now HAS a 13th floor, but no 4th, 14th, 24th, or 34th. And each floor is missing appartment 4. Oddly though, they forgot to omit P4 the lowest parkade, which is ominously present.....
posted by imaswinger at 11:06 AM on January 11, 2002


(rant)
I hate this stupid superstition crap when it comes to the numbering of floors. Just because you don't like the number 13, doesn't mean that your building does not have a 13th floor. It's still there. Same with 4/14/24/34...etc. I'm always amazed at how the human mind trys to deny the natural world to fit its own weird shortcomings. Stupid stupid stupid. Of course, that defines superstition in general.
(/rant)

Of course, this bitterniss has nothing to do with the fact that I was born on the 13th, as was my mother, and both my grandfathers...nothing at all
posted by thewittyname at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2002


The study by Phillips and his co-authors finds that cardiac deaths peak on the fourth of the month for Americans of Chinese and Japanese descent, and that this pattern is not seen among whites. The study used computerized U.S. death certificates to examine more than 200,000 Chinese and Japanese deaths, and 47,000,000 white deaths, from 1973 to 1998.

These sample sizes are a bit skewed.
posted by Skot at 11:22 AM on January 11, 2002


I wonder if those stats will change over the years, as younger generations of Japanese and Chinese Americans (as well as those poeple living in their native countries) seem to be MUCH less superstitious about this type of thing. Even many people of my parent's generation think the numbers issue is nonsense. I certainly don't think I'd be more likely to have a heart attack on the 4th of a month.
posted by mariko at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2002


Yep, Japanese goes ichi-ni-san (yon/shi) for one to four, to avoid the shi-death connotation. It was a Chinese import that survives, but with great superstition attached.
posted by headspace at 1:13 PM on January 11, 2002


Of course the converse of this would be that symbols considered good luck would have a health benefit. Metaprogramming, psychosomatics, and socialization do have an upside you know.

If people are becoming less superstitious (as mariko suggests) does that mean that the occasional media article about how this or that is bad for you, even if it really isn't, may affect people? Could published scientific research be the new irrational killer? What does 'real' mean in a world where symbols can kill? Inquiring post-modernists want to know!
posted by skallas at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2002


Dunno about Mandarin, but in Cantonese the pronounciation is close, but it's not exactly the same. I imagine it would be exactly the same in Japanese just from what I know about how everything converts to kana.
posted by juv3nal at 6:00 AM on January 12, 2002


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