Counting fingers

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When you indicate the number 8 with your hands, how do you do it?

If you're American you probably hold up your hands like this:
8-american.jpgSide by side, in front of your face. The left hand indicates five and the right hand shows the remaining three.

But in Japan, it's done like this:
8-japanese.jpgWith the hands held palms together. The hand behind shows five and the hand on top gives the rest.

I imagine that other places use this method as well, and it makes sense. The person looking at your hands only has to focus in one location and to check out the fingers on top to know the number. With the American method, I always end up scanning across the hands, taking in the face of the person holding them up, too. Not nearly so efficient.

A similar ease of use follows in the Japanese method for marking groups of 5. It uses the five strokes of the kanji for five. This is used all the time in restaurants:
fives.jpg

At a glance, you can see the correct number. The American system of four vertical lines topped by a diagonal a slash across always forces me to double check wither it's three or four lines marked down and so on, though I have no problem when it's five or one. Maybe I'm just a little slow.

10 Comments

So, how do you count with your fingers, American style, starting with closed fist, then opening one finger at a time? Or Japanese style, with open hand, closing it into a fist one finger at a time?

I now understand why my japanese teacher used a really odd why of counting....

Wee, that's one Gajin Faux Paux I won't be making now.


teehee

Hm, I would use a full hand and three fingers from thumb to middle finger of the other hand. I think that would be the most common method here in germany.

Is it really 'tadashi' that's used for marking to five? I know the kanji for 5 is only 4 strokes, but it seemed to me that the order tickets showed 'go' as the completed kanji...But maybe 5 is too many beers to be mindful of details. I'll make someone else drink the other four beers next time and I'll take a closer look at the check. :-)

Steve's right on this one.

I hold up four fingers on my right hand and four on my left, tucking my thumbs into my palms. I don't know why. Eight is my favorite number though. Maybe I feel it should be equally distributed?

OK, I corrected the kanji in my illustration, so I won't be spreading any false information about Japanese counting and marking systems. Thanks, guys. :-)

The stroke order is wrong, though. The little upright on the left is the fourth stroke and the big line across the bottom is the fifth stroke. We used to use this when keeping score during games in class.

I don't know if this is the norm elsewhere, but here in the sub-continent, we are used to counting using finger segments, in addition to whole fingers. i.e. 3 segments per finger (plus thumb) for a total of 15 per hand (use your thumb to point to each segment, starting from the pinky's tip).

When I first came to Jp and was attending a language exchange program, my Japanese teacher noticed that I counted this way and seemed astonished that you could also count this way.

strokes 4 and 5: order is reversed.

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Recent Comments

  • niji: strokes 4 and 5: order is reversed. read more
  • Sajjad: I don't know if this is the norm elsewhere, but read more
  • M Sinclair Stevens: The stroke order is wrong, though. The little upright on read more
  • Kristen: OK, I corrected the kanji in my illustration, so I read more
  • Jenn: I hold up four fingers on my right hand and read more
  • UltraBob: Steve's right on this one. read more
  • Kristen: Is it really 'tadashi' that's used for marking to five? read more
  • kaeng: Hm, I would use a full hand and three fingers read more
  • adorable1: I now understand why my japanese teacher used a really read more
  • Charles: So, how do you count with your fingers, American style, read more

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