Friday, January 4, 2013


While the number 4 does not strike fear to many in the West, the Chinese and Japanese have a superstitious fear of the number 4. The reason is fairly simple: the word for death, shi, sounds just like the number for 4. In China and Japan, buildings do not have a 4th floor or any floor whose number contains the digit 4.  Cartoon characters that have only four fingers are considered bad luck. The superstition runs so deep in these cultures that cardiac deaths for Chinese and Japanese Americans are said to increase by 7 percent on the fourth of each month.

1 comment:

  1. While there is a differnce between the pronunciation of number 4 and the word death, it's so minute tht only someone who has been speaking Japanese for ever would either be able to hear it or to actually say them with the appropriate difference. "Shi", with an entirely different Kanji, of course, also is used to connect verbs to more polite forms. It's also used in "Kyoshi", or teacher, though I couldn't find the meaning of shi in that compound.