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07/28/2007

Japanese ways (2) - "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" (How to count numbers)

We Japanese sometimes say "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" that corresponds to "Two-Four-Six-Eight-Ten" in English. This is a special way of counting numbers. The roots of this weird expression go back to Edo-era that started about four hundred years ago and continued about two hundred and seventy years long. "Chuu" came from "Jyuuni (literal meaning is "doubly counted 'two'")" that meant the state of two dices showing two and two by simultaneous tossing. Hence "Jyuuni-Jyuuni" meant "two-two and two-two" and it changed to "Chouni-Chouni", and finally to "Chuu-Chuu." So, this way of counting numbers has roots in the archaic Japanese gamble called "bakuchi" which uses dices.

Let's continue explaining the reason why it changed into "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na." Above explanation states that "Chuu-Chuu" means four (two and two) plus four (two and two) equals eight. "Eight" inspired our ancestors to include a creature with eight arms or legs. "Tacho" means "octopus" and "kai-na" means "arms/legs." So its final form "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" means that octopus has eight arms or legs, and doesn't convey any meaningful message in itself, but it came to be used as a means of counting numbers in the course of two hundred years.

By the way, do you know the interesting examples of counting numbers like this one in other countries?

2007 07 28 [Japanese Ways] | 固定リンク

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