Four! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin! Say it again!
June 1, 2013 10:50 AM   Subscribe

The Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill has voted to ban the number 4 from street addresses.
posted by unSane (112 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The motion passed 5-4...

Unlucky for some.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:56 AM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well it's about time.
posted by jonmc at 10:59 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


While simultaneously, wanting every address to contain as many 8s as possible.
posted by bonehead at 11:00 AM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn; the next thing you know we'll have skyscrapers with no 13th floor!
posted by TedW at 11:00 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whew. Comment 5. That's better.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:02 AM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


The last link says the town had already banned the number 13. So, now that they've banned the number 4, I'm sure nothing bad will ever happen to anyone who lives there again.
posted by dortmunder at 11:03 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess if counting in English went 'one, two, three, death, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten', we'd have a similiar thing across the Anglophone world.
posted by motty at 11:03 AM on June 1, 2013 [35 favorites]


Also applies to cell phone numbers.
posted by w0mbat at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that the number is an unlucky number. The number four sounds the word for dead or death or die in Chinese. So a lot of Chinese people will not like that number depending on where it is in a series of numbers for a home. For instance, 4913 means 9 dies, 1 lives. I actually went to see a house with that number and the real estate agent said to me, let's skip to the next home. I didn't mind but it was quite funny that she didn't even want to bother.
posted by Yellow at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my office building, a tech company moved into the 4th floor. For the same reasons, they had the building rename the 4th floor "3A". Everything was changed: signs, elevator buttons, buzzer at the front door. First day they moved in, the fire sprinklers went off and and doused their server room causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.

You can't trick the 4th floor into thinking it's 3A.
posted by the jam at 11:06 AM on June 1, 2013 [85 favorites]


People are just so damned strange sometimes.
posted by MissySedai at 11:06 AM on June 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


Interestingly, the decision only seems to affect residences where the number is specifically "4." Not only does this mean 14, 24, etc. are still fine, it also means "44" and "444" are also fine. The Richmond Hill Liberal story notes one family with a street number of 44 who was unable to sell their house due to the superstition; that family's still screwed based on my reading of the motion.

Funnily enough, certain condo developments (probably including the majority of the ones popping up in Richmond Hill and Markham) leave out as many fours as possible on the floors, which means no 14, 24, etc. I actually don't know what they do with floors 40-49, though.
posted by chrominance at 11:07 AM on June 1, 2013


More clarity from the town's street naming/addressing guide, which says specifically under section 2.1:

13. The number "13" is to be skipped when assigning
addresses.


I like that the cheeky bugger that wrote the guide made this the thirteenth rule in the section.
posted by chrominance at 11:10 AM on June 1, 2013 [42 favorites]


How do you say "Creeping Sharia Law" in Chinese?

jk yall
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:11 AM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are they all smoking crack up there?
posted by pashdown at 11:11 AM on June 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Have they considered the socioeconomic cost if they succeed in foiling death this way and no-one ever dies again? Have the considered the suffering that will never end in blessed release? Stop this madness now!
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:12 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, the other thing is, just let the white folk live in homes with the number 4 in it. They don't seem to be bothered by death at all.
posted by Yellow at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought we were supposed to be becoming more developed, as a species? Superstition should be consigned to the dark ages where it came from.
posted by Brockles at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


So what this means is that existing houses with a 4 are going to be a good value buy for a home because a big chunk of the potential buyers are superstitious.
posted by srboisvert at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


PS. If I were a Toronto political cartoonist I'd be drawing a figure of Death moving listlessly down a Richmond street singing "sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name... and they're always glad you came..."
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's gonna come out that this endeavor was secretly bankrolled by 3 and 5.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I always read this stuff, but have never known anyone who got so much as 10% off their rent for living in the supposedly haunted Apt 1313 in the Ripper Bldg, at 666 Death Street, beside the cemetery.
posted by tyllwin at 11:16 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait until they hear that 789.
posted by zippy at 11:17 AM on June 1, 2013 [27 favorites]


I guess if counting in English went 'one, two, three, death, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten', we'd have a similiar thing across the Anglophone world.
The thing I can't understand is why euphemism hasn't replaced "four" with something else in Mandarin. If there really is such a bad reaction to it, how do folk get round saying the word in everyday life? If everybody just agreed that the word for "four" was "the other three" or "before five" it would save a lot of hassle.
posted by Jehan at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


So they reached a four-gone conclusion?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:25 AM on June 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


I don't really think this is a hugebig deal, I guess? It's kind of silly but in general so are most things voted on by city councils. The emergency responder thing is a real issue but they'll have to see how that goes.

That said, I kind of wanna move here, change my name to Thirteen Deathmurderson, and run for mayor.
posted by elizardbits at 11:26 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely you mean Thirteen Foreman.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clearly golf is a game of death.
posted by drezdn at 11:32 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that the whole superstition/fear of 4 thing is a part of the older demographic of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures. The newer generation seems fine with these numbers.

I'm no expert, but Japanese video games, manga, and anime use the number 4 ubiquitously. Similar to the way we use the number 666 in all manner of supernatural western media.
posted by PipRuss at 11:35 AM on June 1, 2013


I don't get why renaming your building 4B avoids the issue with 4, or why 401 is bad but not 410.

But ignoring the fourth floor in a building doesn't seem any weirder than avoiding the 13th room on all floors and the 13th floor also. (Which is, I think, pretty weird -- I'd love to be room 1313.) It affects more buildings, though.

I'm intrigued that the house prices can be that affected, and wonder if there is a similar effect for houses numbered 13.
posted by jeather at 11:37 AM on June 1, 2013


Gonna be easy to be mayor of that town on Foursquare.
posted by zippy at 11:38 AM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


A similar effect for houses numbered 13 elsewhere, as it's banned there too.
posted by jeather at 11:38 AM on June 1, 2013


Everywhere I've lived, they just start counting addresses at 100. No single digits, thus no 4.
posted by octothorpe at 11:38 AM on June 1, 2013


Weren't people up in arms over Lahore Crescent in Markham for a while? (Next to New Delhi Dr. and Karachi Dr.)
posted by avocet at 11:38 AM on June 1, 2013


(Also, I am proud to work in a building with a 13th floor. I think the fact that it is an academic library may have something to do with that.)
posted by avocet at 11:39 AM on June 1, 2013




Wouldn't it be simpler to change Chinese so that, you know, one of the small integers doesn't cause people to freak out?
posted by Nelson at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2013


I worked for an alarm company in Vancouver in the 90s that ran the monitoring station for about 2 dozen other alarm companies. We would have technicians calling in several times a day asking for blocks of account numbers (which are also the number code that the alarm panels dial in to the station when they are tripped) for the week's new installations. We had two companies that were Chinese-owned and primarily had Chinese clients. You would always hear new staff on the phone giving out numbers in a conversation that went like this "OK, I can give you C1440 to C14540. What do you mean those numbers aren't good? Uhm, how about C18444 to C19444...? No....? Wait, so, it's the 4s?"

I became a favourite operator one night when I spent a bunch of time with a tech on the phone giving him about 36 months worth of account numbers without 4s or 5s, and hand-picking all the 3s and 8s. Eventually, we installed a whole new machine whose numbers began E88xxx.

And then a few years later, my previously unaddressed university invented a street and number for itself: 8888 University Drive. It seemed a particularly shallow bid to draw more Hong Kong students so as to gouge them with foreign student fees.
posted by looli at 11:46 AM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


New mefi project: change chinese
posted by benzenedream at 11:46 AM on June 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


in order to change chinese you must first invent the universe
posted by elizardbits at 11:49 AM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Damn; the next thing you know we'll have skyscrapers with no 13th floor!

That's why I love things like this. You never realize just how superstitious your own culture is until you start making fun of someone else's.

It's not _superstition_ to tell people to break a leg, or to never say "This demo is going to go really well", or to never ever ever taunt the traffic gods. It's just um.... tradition!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:52 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those weird wedding traditions down the page from the 4 article: They could be dismissed as silly superstitions which are not practiced in the 21st century. But three...five shows that superstition still triumphs.
posted by Cranberry at 12:07 PM on June 1, 2013


Fucking. Ridiculous.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Clearly golf is a game of death.

Chess and now golf. Why does death always pick "sports" that require quotation marks?
posted by C'est la D.C. at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2013


The 4 thing and the 13 thing are both fucking idiotic.

And I'm Chinese-Texan, so there.

"hahahaha Chinese people are weird don't they realize they're not in China anymore amirite"

Addresses in Beijing regularly use 4.
posted by kmz at 12:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The growing GTA community has a multicultural approach to superstition..."

This... This isn't how it's supposed to work. Ignore all the superstitions, don't include them all.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:10 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ubiquity of games like avoiding 4 and 13 makes me think that we've got OCD on a species level.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:11 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny enough, the Bank of China's Los Angeles offices are in the 444 Building downtown. Rumour has it that was part of the decision to rebrand it as Citigroup Center.
posted by hwyengr at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2013


The Rio Suite Hotel in Vegas doesn't have any floor numbers with 4 in them. It's very odd looking at the control panel in the elevator.

Also, no room number contains 4.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:21 PM on June 1, 2013


And then a few years later, my previously unaddressed university invented a street and number for itself: 8888 University Drive. It seemed a particularly shallow bid to draw more Hong Kong students so as to gouge them with foreign student fees.

I also went to SFU, and remember thinking exactly the same thing when I learned what its address was.
posted by good in a vacuum at 12:37 PM on June 1, 2013


I've definitely been on planes where there's no row 13 of seats. In fact I think this is common. The first time I saw it, it seemed funny to me as, you know, if something bad happens to a plane it's not exactly likely to just affect row number 13. But yeah, logic and superstition don't go so well together I guess.

Except business logic - if enough people want to change seats/flights or cancel, it's a lot easier to do away with the natural sequence of numbers and increase profits a little. Likewise houses and number four, I guess.
posted by iotic at 12:40 PM on June 1, 2013


I would gladly like in apartment 413 at 666 Unlucky Street, at the corner of Satan Avenue. Rent should be cheap, and it's a good screener for friends and dates...if you have friends or date.
posted by maxwelton at 12:49 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I grew up in 15. The house next door was 11. Knowing full well what that meant has given me something to blame all my problems on.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Rio Suite Hotel in Vegas doesn't have any floor numbers with 4 in them.

The same hotel where Penn and Teller perform? I wonder what they think about that.
posted by TedW at 1:06 PM on June 1, 2013


It's stupid but at least you can turn it round the other way like Taylor Swift (born on Friday 13th and has at least one 13 tattoo).

Although: I cheerfully live at Flat 13 and I once met the guy on the other side of the road who lives at house number 13. He was a fucking grinning cadaver.
posted by colie at 1:12 PM on June 1, 2013


Addresses in Beijing regularly use 4.

kmz, do you know whether that has always been the case, or just post-Mao? It's been my understanding that the Communists tried systematically to wipe out superstitions in China.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:12 PM on June 1, 2013


It's been my understanding that the Communists tried systematically to wipe out superstitions in China.

I like the sound of that.
posted by colie at 1:15 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a house down the street from me with an address of 666. I wouldn't walk in front of it.
It looked like something that spawned the devil, with a functioning meth lab in the open alleyway back yard.
After years of craziness, the city purchased the block and bulldozed the whole thing, putting up Student Campus Housing.
I keep wondering if those old spirits haunt those new halls.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 1:17 PM on June 1, 2013


But I am pretty sure that Address only reinforced the type of people that lived there. Pretty, pretty sure.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 1:20 PM on June 1, 2013


kmz, do you know whether that has always been the case, or just post-Mao? It's been my understanding that the Communists tried systematically to wipe out superstitions in China.

Which inevitably makes me wonder, does "Gang of Four" sound in the original like "Gang of Death", then?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2013


You might remember Gang of Death for their hit single, "I Love a Man in Unideathm."
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:26 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


oh noes! mah username!
posted by 4ster at 1:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


kmz, do you know whether that has always been the case, or just post-Mao?

No idea, honestly.

Which inevitably makes me wonder, does "Gang of Four" sound in the original like "Gang of Death", then?

Well, in Mandarin at least (not sure about Cantonese) Death is si3, and Four is si4, so any fluent Putonghua speaker can distinguish anyway.
posted by kmz at 1:28 PM on June 1, 2013


I may have answered my own question with some Googling; if this article is reliable, then Beijing only very recently has officially required the use of "unlucky" numbers in street addresses. Leaves open the question of how widespread the practice of avoiding "unlucky" numbers in addresses might have before that, but clearly (assuming the article is accurate) it was at least widespread enough to warrant a legislated response.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:32 PM on June 1, 2013


It's been my understanding that the Communists tried systematically to wipe out superstitions in China.

I like the sound of that.


Somehow I suspect you'd find the methods employed considerably less appealing if they were used on you or your family.
posted by lambdaphage at 1:34 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of my major projects, should I strike it ridiculously rich, is to undertake a massive culture-jamming effort to undermine superstitions. Huge billboards in asia saying that the number 4 makes them more virile, and that rhinoceros horn causes impotence would be one place I'd start.
posted by chimaera at 1:37 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Toronto, big buildings get to pick their street number from a range of numbers provided by city hall. The numbers are assigned by by the city according notional, equal-sized lots sized for individual houses and big buildings will usually occupy several of these. So you see lots of big buildings with nice round numbers.

There's a large appartment building (perhaps not coincidentally) just north of Chinatown at 666 Spadina.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2013


Just an interesting observation on my last post ... funny that at the same time the capital of China is banning superstitious street numbering practice, the capital of Canada is requiring that practice. Humanity is endlessly baffling and intriguing.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2013


There's an infill housing development in my ethnically diverse Toronto neighbourhood where the builders chose to avoid 4 in the terminal position only.

Street numbers like these are OK: 42, 46, 132, 136, 142, 146. There are no houses at 44, 134 or 144. On one street, the house numbers jump from 2 to 29, which is really weird, because those houses are on the east side of that street and should all be odd, so why start with 2 in the first place?
posted by maudlin at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2013


Richmond Hill is not the capital of Canada. Neither is Toronto.
posted by maudlin at 1:39 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Obligatory: Toronto is the centre of the universe.)
posted by maudlin at 1:40 PM on June 1, 2013


maudlin, I know that Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Sorry.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 1:41 PM on June 1, 2013


We're sorry, too. (Except for the beavertails. Beavertails are awesome.)
posted by maudlin at 1:42 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also went to SFU, and remember thinking exactly the same thing when I learned what its address was.

Nevermind that, I just looked up Simon Fraser to see if he had a middle name that began with a T because that would be awesome.
posted by srboisvert at 1:58 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


My building has 5 'penthouse' floors. It goes 11, 12, ph1, ph2, ph3, etc...

It is a pain in the ass to give my address over the phone. When talking to colleagues I can say 'pH 3x, like hydrogen potential 3x'. With normal people I have to say 'ph as in penthouse' and it is embarrassing. It makes me sound like a one percenter, which makes superstitious mefites think that I am evil and should be first against the wall.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 2:00 PM on June 1, 2013


If the Chinese would just switch to base 4, they wouldn't have to use that numeral at all. Also the current year would start with 13 from now (133131) until the end of 2047 which would piss off superstitious westerners.
posted by w0mbat at 2:01 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


hmm, I wonder if the mods would let me add a 4 to my username?

I have always been amused at the idea that a number can have some sort of mystical power, it just seems so silly. For example, my when my parents bought the land they built their cottage on, they got a really nice piece of land with an outcropping of rock rising from the water which was perfect for perching a cottage on. That same piece of land had actually been the first choice of the couple with the cottage next door, but they wouldn't buy it because it was lot number 13. So, when I was buying a house, I was smugly pleased that though the house number was 29, in the land survey it was sitting on lot 13! I even took it as a "good sign" until I realized that I WAS DOING IT TOO! that shit is pervasive.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:02 PM on June 1, 2013


which makes superstitious mefites think that I am evil and should be first against the wall.

I read that as "superfluous mefites" and thought "typical 1%er".
posted by five fresh fish at 2:18 PM on June 1, 2013


This does not bode well for the Playstation Death.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:21 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like the number thirteen. I was born on a Friday the thirteenth. As much as I believe in lucky numbers, I seem to have had (confirmation bias?) some auspicious things happen to me on the thirteenth or to be somehow associated with the number thirteen. Like being 1337 as a mofo, dag yo. Screw superstitions, regardless of whatever culture they're associated with, they're on the same level as believing in the Easter Bunny or thinking your mom's spinal injuries were caused by your walk home from grade school.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:29 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a large appartment building (perhaps not coincidentally) just north of Chinatown at 666 Spadina.
Hey I used to live there! Thankfully, nothing infernal occured, although there were an awful lot of middle-of-the-night fire alarms. Which I attribute to its location across from the U of T campus rather than any unholy forces.

I did notice "666" addresses in Toronto way more often than I'd seen them in other cities, although here in New York there is a pretty big office building on 666 5th Avenue.

The building I live in now has no 4th floor.
posted by pravit at 2:41 PM on June 1, 2013


My wife was born on Friday the 13th. She is the cheeriest, luckiest person I know.

Our building in Vancouver has no 4th, 13th or 14th floor, so while we're technically on the 9th floor, it's really the 8th floor. People are weird.
posted by arcticseal at 2:42 PM on June 1, 2013


From the WSJ article: Surprisingly, the numbers 666—considered to represent evil—are 39% more common in the Bible Belt than elsewhere in the U.S.

No. Because most of the fun of having a 666 would be tweaking people who care about such things.
posted by straight at 2:47 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd rather they eliminate the 13 tradition rather than introduce another but mostly harmless except for my plans to buy discounted property with 13s and 4s in them are foiled.

What's next, 411 to become 811?
posted by juiceCake at 3:06 PM on June 1, 2013


looli: Your university wouldn't have been at the top of a mountain, in Canada, would it have? :D I think I'm studying there right now.

I never thought about the address: I just like it as it is easy to remember, unlike just about every other address.

I do kinda want to get an address that is something like 413 now though, just to be different.
posted by Canageek at 3:12 PM on June 1, 2013


I have never met a human being who wasn't superstitious. I've met plenty who thought they weren't superstitious, but 100% of the time it turns out that they engage in behaviors from their home culture that rely on magical thinking.

Murphy's law alone picks up every engineer you've ever met.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My birthday is April 13th, so clearly these people would drive a stake through my heart if they met me.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 4:12 PM on June 1, 2013


So nobody engages in deathplay before sex?
posted by dr_dank at 4:33 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coming soon to Richmond Hill: sidewalks without cracks.
Posted at 4:44 PST.
posted by Nomyte at 4:44 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I once stayed in a flat in a newly built apartment building in Sydney, whose floor numbering plan was designed to appeal to Chinese investors; there were no residential floors ending with '4'; floor 35 came straight after 33.

For some reason, floors beginning with 4 in the tens place were OK, though. As was the non-residential fourth floor (either a gym or a car park, IIRC).
posted by acb at 4:54 PM on June 1, 2013


Chinese and Japanese Americans are actually more likely to die on the fourth day of each month.
posted by euphorb at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, I stayed at the Wynn in Las Vegas. I was on the 55th floor, which I knew was near the top. When I was outside, I started counting up to see exactly where I was and noticed that there was less than 50 floors. Later, I noticed that the buttons in the elevator went straight from 39 to 50.
posted by Hatashran at 5:06 PM on June 1, 2013


The thing I can't understand is why euphemism hasn't replaced "four" with something else in Mandarin. If there really is such a bad reaction to it, how do folk get round saying the word in everyday life? If everybody just agreed that the word for "four" was "the other three" or "before five" it would save a lot of hassle.--Jehan

Four in Japanese, shi, also means death. The Japanese did exactly what you suggest and created another word for four, yon. So Japanese has two words for 'four'.

Acutally, seven is shichi, which has a similar problem, so they created another word for seven too: nana.
posted by eye of newt at 5:30 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Japanese did exactly what you suggest and created another word for four, yon. So Japanese has two words for 'four'.

Japanese has (at least!) two words for every number. Is it really a matter of "inventing new words" or just substituting from the parallel set of native number words in place of the bad-sounding Chinese borrowings?
posted by Nomyte at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2013


I was told by my Japanese teacher that this is exactly why they created the words yon and nana and that is exactly why they use these words. Not the definitive reference I guess, and Wikipedia, which only lists 4 and 7 as having two words may not be definitive either.
posted by eye of newt at 5:40 PM on June 1, 2013


Buh? Please examine the very first table in your link and compare the on and kun columns.
posted by Nomyte at 5:45 PM on June 1, 2013


The 'kun' column is for numbers like 'first, second, third, fourth'. English has that too, but that is different than a different number for 'four'.

If you ask a Japanese kid to count to four he will say 'ichi ni san shi' or 'ichi ni san yon'. He won't say 'hitotsu futatsu mittsu, yottsu'.

Anyone who speaks Japanese fluently, feel free to pitch in, as I am assuredly not an expert.
posted by eye of newt at 6:22 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Four in Japanese, shi, also means death. The Japanese did exactly what you suggest and created another word for four, yon. So Japanese has two words for 'four'.

Apparently the ancient Slavic word for “bear” and the ancient Germanic word for “wolf” had the same problem; they were seen as taboos, words which may conjure up the evil they represent, and so they were replaced by euphemistic allusions (medved or “honey eater” for bear, and an onomatopoeic word for wolf) and the original taboo names of the feared predators were lost to time.
posted by acb at 6:24 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


EON, I think we're talking past each other here. The difference between on and kun is not cardinal versus ordinal, nor were yon and nana "invented" to avoid taboo words. You're absolutely right in the sense that the names of the numbers are a mix of on and kun, but both sets are used when actually counting things. Maybe let's agree on the fact that Japanese numbers are complicated and leave it at that.
posted by Nomyte at 7:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Explains why the George Foreman grill isn't doing too well there.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2013


The area code for western Massachusetts is 413.
posted by adamg at 7:59 PM on June 1, 2013


However the 'yon' and 'nana' were originally created, getting back to Jehan's original point, they provide a convenient way of avoiding saying 'death': due to superstition (shi also means "death"), 4 and 7 typically use the Japanese readings yon and nana instead.
posted by eye of newt at 8:29 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe Richmond Hill will pass a by-law requiring building design to be approved by a feng shui expert next. People are so stupid. Leave it to municipal government to cater to their stupidity. Though I guess if you're the unlucky bloke who bought number 44 before all the Chinese immigration to Richmond Hill, I feel for you.
posted by Dasein at 9:19 PM on June 1, 2013


I love Friday the thirteenth! It's always payday. Bonus: we get paid two days early!

My family was not at all superstitious. My father would often say, "Friday the thirteenth comes on a Wednesday this month!" after Churchy La Femme, from the "Pogo" comic strip. He never tired of that joke. On the morning of Tuesday, June 13, 2006, I remarked to my co-workers, "Friday the thirteenth falls on a Tuesday this month," thinking of my father. That afternoon, my mother called me to say my father had just passed away. The coincidence is striking, but still just a coincidence.
posted by ogooglebar at 10:20 PM on June 1, 2013


EON, I think we're talking past each other here. The difference between on and kun is not cardinal versus ordinal, nor were yon and nana "invented" to avoid taboo words. You're absolutely right in the sense that the names of the numbers are a mix of on and kun, but both sets are used when actually counting things. Maybe let's agree on the fact that Japanese numbers are complicated and leave it at that.

Goddamnit, I was SO CLOSE TO BEING USEFUL ON METAFILTER, after so many years, but beaten to the punch!
I knew I should have been reading more quickly instead of giggling, drinking kirin and sapporo, and sharing posts with my Japanese girlfriend from my apartment in Meguro. :(

Oh well. At least I got to make a post at 8 PM?
posted by GoingToShopping at 4:17 AM on June 2, 2013


Our building in Vancouver has no 4th, 13th or 14th floor, so while we're technically on the 9th floor, it's really the 8th floor. People are weird.

And to make matters worse, there's a button on the elevator marked '0' that briefly lights up when pressed, but quickly extinguishes without the elevator taking any action. Those who press it immediately dismiss the button as a joke, but as the days and weeks go on they collect an oddly persistent feeling that something is different with their lives. They note that they're now much better at giving travel directions and have an unnatural ability to catch accidentally dropped objects before they hit the ground.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:03 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


drezdn: "Clearly golf is a game of death."

I would be really surprised if the Chinese words for "fore" and "4" are coincidentally homophones like they are in English.
posted by secretseasons at 7:08 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am so getting into the Asian real estate market. I'm picturing a building floor-numbered like this: 1, 2, 3, 8, 5, 6, 7, 88, 9, 10, 11, 12, 888, 8888.

Ah screw it, how about: 8, 88, 888, 888, 8888. Does four eights wrap around to bad again?
posted by codswallop at 9:06 AM on June 2, 2013


I'm OK with this ban. On so many levels.
posted by Sk4n at 9:57 AM on June 2, 2013


No foreskin gag yet?
posted by colie at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2013


Meanwhile, the second character in every postal code in Richmond Hill is 4.

There's really no justification to letting superstition get in the way of good governance. And that's exactly what this does.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in building 4 of my apartment complex. I'm doomed.
posted by mike3k at 10:35 PM on June 3, 2013


« Older we are bacteria all the way down   |   Anyone can make a t-shirt with Zazzle! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments