Unlucky Number

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Four (can also be known as Tetraphobia)

Number 4 (四; accounting 肆; pinyin sì) is considered an unlucky number in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese[citation needed] and Japanese cultures because it is nearly homophonous to the word “death” (死 pinyin sǐ). Due to that, many numbered product lines skip the “4”: e.g. Nokia cell phones (there is no series beginning with a 4), Palm PDAs, Canon PowerShot G’s series (after G3 goes G5), etc. In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor. (Compare with the American practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.) In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings miss ALL floor numbers with “4”, e.g. 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40-49 floors. As a result, a building whose highest floor is number 50 may actually have only 36 physical floors.

In Singapore during the early 2000s, Alfa Romeo introduced a new model, the 144. Due to poor sales, the company changed the model number of the product.

Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers. Although 14 is usually said in Mandarin as 十四 “shí sì,” which sounds like 十死 “ten die”, it can also be said as 一四 “yī sì” or 么四 “yāo sì”, literally “one four”. Thus, 14 can also be said as “yāo sì,” literally “one four,” but it also sounds like “want to die” (要死 pinyin yào sǐ). In Cantonese, 14 sounds like “sap6 sei3”, which sounds like “sat6 sei2” meaning “certainly die” (實死). Not all Chinese people consider it to be an unlucky number as the pronunciation differs among the various dialects. In Chiu Chow, 4 is pronounced as “see” or “yes”. It is seen to be a lucky number because Chinese people like things in pairs (four would equal two pairs). However, the superstitions regarding numbers from Cantonese people have been adopted by the other Chinese people.

Coincidentally, in the Rich Text Format specification, language code 4 is for the Chinese language.

Although five (五, pinyin: wǔ, jyutping: ng5) can represent “me” (吾, pinyin: wú) in Mandarin, it is usually associated with “not” (Mandarin 无/無, pinyin wú, and Cantonese 唔 m4). If used for the negative connotation it can become good by using it with a negative. 54 being “not die” or “no death”. If used for the positive it can be used as a possessive. 528 is a way of saying “no easy fortune for me”. 53 (“ng5 saam1” in Cantonese) sounds like “m4 sang1 (唔生)” – “not live”.

Six in Cantonese which has a similar pronunciation to that of “lok6” (落, meaning “to drop, fall, or decline”) may form unlucky combinations.

Seven is considered spiritist or ghostly. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is also called the “Ghost Month”. See Ghost Festival for more detail. During this month, the gates of hell are said to be open so ghosts and spirits are permitted to visit the living realm. However, Chinese lunar calendar also has July 7 as Chinese Valentine’s Day(qi xi), so the number 7 is not generally associated with unluck. In most of the regions in China number 7 remains neutral or associate with luck.

* 167, 169, 1679: In Hong Kong, seven (七) and nine (九) both have similar pronunciations to and , respectively, two of “the five most insulting words” in Cantonese – the male genital. Six in Cantonese also has a similar pronunciation to an impolite word which is used to count the number of cylindrical objects. Therefore, 167, 169, 1679 and other creative combinations (such as the infamous taboo “on-9-9”) are dirty jokes in Hong Kong culture.

* 250: if it is read in a certain way, it means imbecile in Mandarin. 二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ) reading means imbecile, while alternative ways such as 兩百五 (lǐang bǎi wǔ) or 二百五十 (èr bǎi wǔ shí) means 250. The difference lies with the rule that 兩 should be used in the place of 二 to mean 2 when directly before a measure word (百, in this case.)

* 5354: “唔生唔死” (m4 saang1 m4 sei2 in Cantonese) sounds like “not alive, not dead”. This often refers to something that is half dead or on the verge of death.

* 678: “六七八” (jyutping: luk6 cat1 baat3) rhymes with the phrase “一路發” (jyutping: jaat1 lou6 faat3) in Cantonese, which means “fortune all the way.” Alternatively, 168 “一六八” is sometimes used for the same term in Mandarin.

* 7456: In Mandarin, 7456 (qī sì wǔ liù) sounds marginally like “氣死我了” (qì-sǐ wǒ -le, “to make me angry,” “to piss me off”), and is sometimes used in internet slang.

* 9413: “九死一生” (gau2 sei2 yat1 saang1 in Cantonese) – nine die to one live, meaning 90% chance of being dead and only 10% chance of being alive.

What’s your unlucky number?

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2 Comments »

  1. 1
    chi Says:

    the roads in my taman..don’t have jalan 24..afte jalan 23, skipped to jalan 25, 26 onwards..

  2. 2
    MikeLeo Says:

    Yup.. that’s what I mean


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