Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Hi everyone,

As mentioned earlier, I got quite inspired by the postings about the literary pronunciation of the numbers 1-10. Ever since October 2009 - when there was quite a bit of activity on the topic - I'd been meaning to do the exercise below, but haven't found the time until now.

In this posting, I'll just summarize the compounds which Mark and Niuc have given, and list the ones I know. I've reformatted Mark's and Niuc's original entries slightly, and added some definitions, so that all the lists conform to a standard format.

In the two postings after that, I'll give the ones listed in Douglas and MacGowan. The fact that I had access to searchable versions of Douglas/Barclay and MacGowan made the exercise a bit easier, but still, it was quite a lot of work! The other thing I discovered is that what the pdf-versions show on the screen is not necessarily quite the same as the digitized (OCR'd) text. Particularly the vowels with diacritics - which look fine on the screen - often have been OCR'd incorrectly. This can easily be seen if you select some of the pdf text, do a "copy" (control-c in Windows), and then "paste" (control-v in Windows) into a text editor. For example, the first 3 POJ entries with diacritics in Douglas are "a-gūi", "a-phièn", and "a-a-kiò", but these have been OCR'd as "a-gai", "a-phién", and "a-a-kid". Similarly, the first 3 POJ entries with diacritics in MacGowan are "tsít", "n`g au", and "tò thè", but these have been OCR'd as "tsit", "nig au", and "t6 the" respectively. This means that some entries in Douglas and (particularly) MacGowan may have been missed, but I've tried to find as many of them as possible.

As is so often the case with literary pronunciations, once one sees the compounds, it "makes sense" that they use literary pronunciation. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that there isn't that much overlap between the 5 lists (Mark's, Niuc's, mine, Douglas, and MacGowan). Undoubtedly, the three of us recognize items on one another's lists - we just didn't happen to think of them ourselves. Also, in all probability, Mark and Niuc will recognize items on the Douglas and MacGowan lists. None of them were familiar to me though, as my vocabulary in Hokkien is so limited.


四海 su-hai: Four seas. [Even this is rarely heard.]
五金店 ngO-kim-tiam: Hardware store.
豬八戒 tu-pat-kai: Pigsy, from Journey To The West (西遊記).
九王爺 kiu-ong-ia: [The Nine Emperor Gods]


三藏 sam1-cong7: [Tripitaka, the monk from 西遊記]
四物 sy3-but8: [No meaning given, also in Douglas.]
六味 liok8-bi7: [Douglas has 五味.]
八珍 pat8-tin1: [No meaning given, literally "eight treasures"; CW: . The article implies that this term refers to "Eight Precious (Edible) Things"; with different groups of eight: Eight Precious Mountain (Forest?) foods, Eight Precious Sea foods, Eight Precious Bird foods, Eight Precious Herbal/Vegetable foods.]
十全 sip8-cuan5: [Tonic]


三層(肉) sam1-can5(-bah4): In Australian English, this is called "belly pork". It's meat with alternating layers of fat. [Also in Douglas, but only under 層, not under 三.]
三國 sam1-kok4: "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms", a novel set in the period of the Three Kingdoms. [Official dates of that period: 220–280 BC.]
三寶公 sam1-po2-kong1: The deified Admiral Zheng He (or Cheng Ho, as it used to be written).
五香粉 ngO2-hiong1-hun2: "Five-spice powder", used in cooking. [English Wikipedia: Five-spice powder is a mixture of five spices used in Chinese cuisine. One common recipe includes tunghing or "Chinese cinnamon" (also known as rougui, the ground bark of the cassia tree, a close relative of true cinnamon), powdered cassia buds, powdered star anise and anise seed, ginger root, and ground cloves. Another recipe for the powder consists of huajiao (Sichuan pepper), bajiao (star anise), rougui (cassia), cloves, and fennel seeds. It is used in most recipes for Cantonese roasted duck, as well as beef stew.]
六桂堂 liok8-kui3-tong5: A clan association in Malaysia, representing 6 different surnames - 洪, 江, 翁, 方, 龔, 汪. This is written "Leok Kooi Tong" in the informal Malaysian/Singaporean orthography. [ There is a reference to the "North Malaysia Leok Kooi Tong (北马六桂堂)" in]
八仙 pat4-siEn1: The "Eight Immortals" of Chinese legend. [Also in Douglas.]
九王爺 kiu2-ong5-ia5: The "Nine Emperor Gods" of Chinese legend. [Also given by Mark. English Wikipedia: The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is a nine-day celebration observed primarily in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. The Nine Emperor Gods Jiǔ Huáng Xīng Jūn / Jiǔ Huáng Da Di (九皇星君/九皇大帝) are the nine sons manifested by Father Emperor Zhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun (斗父周御國王天尊) and Mother of the Big Dipper Dou Mu Yuan Jun (斗母元君).]


1. I have of course known about tu1-pat4-kai3 / Pigsy since I was a little boy, but it was only after I started seriously learning Mandarin as an adult around 2005 that I found out that the "pat4" is 八, and what the meaning of the name is. (In fact, prior to this, I had always pronounced his name as "tu-pak-kai" (due to assimilation), without ever wondering what the last two syllables meant.) Similarly, I had always (subconsciously) thought that sam-po-kong was 三公, but I see in the English Wikipedia article on Zheng He that "The Travels of Eunuch Sanbao to the Western Ocean" is written as 三太監下西洋.
2. I only found out about the 六桂堂 in 2007, when I was doing research into my own family history. My mother's maiden name is 方, and that is how I came to learn about the existence of a clan association for the 方's, shared with 5 other surnames. When I first heard about it, I was surprised that people of different surnames share a clan association, and I wondered if it's only the case in Malaysia/Singapore (because of limited resources and/or few people of any one of those surnames in the region). The link I found has the title 全球六桂堂宗亲网, and there seems to be stuff from Fujian Province there, so it appears to be something which exists in China too.
3. Both Douglas and MacGowan give the tone of 五 as ngO2. This is the only number for which the tone of the literary and colloquial pronunciation is different.
4. Niuc: it's interesting to note that Douglas has 五味 while you have 六味. The Windows input method only recognizes "wu3wei4" as a compound, not "liu4wei4".
5. Niuc: could you post the meaning of 八珍 (and maybe also 六味)?
6. For the Douglas and MacGowan lists, I've only done 三, 四, 五, 六, 八, 九, and 十. For 一 and 二, the "it" vs "cit" and "ji" vs "nO/nng" is not a literary vs colloquial distinction (as mentioned previously), and there is no difference in pronunciation for 七.
7. I'm not sure why the links I've posted are not highlighted for ease of clicking. It's still worthwhile selecting them and pasting them in a separate window, to get additional information on the compound.
8. If readers think of more compounds after seeing these lists, please post them!
Last edited by SimL on Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:07 pm, edited 24 times in total.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Now the ones in Douglas.

The page numbers are the ones of the commonly available SMC Publishing edition / searchable PDF with handwritten characters. The definitions are of course those given in Douglas, but - where I thought that it might be helpful - I've also added definitions (extracts only) from the internet; EW: English Wikipedia, CW: Chinese Wikipedia, DW: Dutch Wikipedia, GW: German Wikipedia, and from BFLUCED: "Beijing Foreign Language University Chinese-English Dictionary". I only quote DW and GW when there is no equivalent EW article, and for the DW and GW extracts I have provided simple translations.

These compounds were a lot easier to find than the ones in MacGowan. This is because Douglas/Barclay is a Hokkien-English dictionary listed in alphabetical order of the Hokkien pronunciation. I simply had to look under "sam1", "su3", "ngO2", etc, and all the compounds relating to that particular number were grouped together. This was very different for MacGowan.

The Chinese characters given here are my best attempt, based on looking up the compounds in other parts of Douglas and Barclay, or from the internet. A "?" indicates that the character may be (i.e. is probably) correct, but that I haven't actually seen the compound listed under that character. For example, sam1-hu2 is given as 三府 (without question marks) because I found the compound under 三, and also under 府. But pat4-ji7-kha1is given with a question marks against 字 and 骹 because I found the compound under 八, but not under 字 or 骹. I've tried to be quite strict about using this "?" - i.e. even when the probability is very high that it's the correct character (based on meaning and sound), I mark some of the characters of a compound with "?" unless I've definitely found the compound listed under all the component characters in Douglas/Barclay, or if I managed to find the entire compound on the internet, with a similar meaning. In some compounds, the character is so obviously correct that I omit the ""?", but I usually note that along with the entry.

I've modernized the Douglas spelling "Tauist" to "Taoist", but I haven't modernized "Pekin" to "Peking" or "Beijing".

Douglas - as we all know - groups the compounds associated with any particular character by semantic area, rather than alphabetically. I have re-arranged the selected compounds more or less alphabetically, as I think this makes them easier to find and compare with other lists.

Please feel free to point out any mistakes I may have made, either in tones, or in the assigned characters. Similarly, if anyone knows that a particular character marked with a question mark is the correct one to use, please feel free to give feedback here too.

3 - 三 (p408)

三清 sam1-chheng1: The Taoist triad. [EW: the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility. EW: Three Treasures (Taoism): 慈 ci2 (compassion), 儉 jian1 (moderation), 不敢為天下先 bu4gan3 wei2 tian1xia4 xian1 (humility).]
三七 sam1-chhit4: A medicine. (p84: A medicine stewed with food; specially given to young persons about coming of age.) [CW: 三七 <-> EW: Panax Notoginseng is a species of the genus Panax. The scientific names for the plant commonly used are either Panax notoginseng or Panax pseudoginseng. It is most commonly referred to as Notoginseng. The herb is also referred to as pseudoginseng, and in Chinese it is called 田七 (Tiánqī), Tienchi ginseng, San qi or Sanchi, three-seven root, and Mountain paint. Notoginseng belongs to the same scientific genus, Panax, as Asian ginseng. In Latin, the word panax means "cure-all," and the family of ginseng plants is one of the most well known herbs. Panax pseudoginseng is not an adaptogen like the better known Panax species, but it is famous as a hemostatic herb that both invigorates and builds blood. Notoginseng grows naturally in China and Japan. The herb is a perennial with dark green leaves branching from a stem with a red cluster of berries in the middle. It is both cultivated and gathered from wild forests, with wild plants being the most valuable. The Chinese refer to it as "three-seven root" because the plant has three branches with seven leaves each.]
三合土 sam1-hap8-thO2: Mortar. (p562: mortar made of lime, clay, and sand.) [The compound is not listed under 合 in Douglas, but many hits to descriptions of concrete on the internet. CW: 三合土 re-directs to 混凝土<-> EW: Concrete.]
三府 sam1-hu2: An official who rules a recent subdivision of a Foo or department, e.g. the mandarin at Chioh4-be2.
三魂七魄 sam1-hun5 chhit4-phek4: The three spirits and seven animal souls of man. [CW: ... 3%E9%AD%84]
三界公 sam1-kai3-kong1: The three gods of the three worlds. [CW: 三界公 re-directs to 三官大帝 <-> GW: ein Oberbegriff für drei daoistische Gottheiten: Tianguan, den Herrscher des Himmels, Diguan, den Herrscher der Erde und Shuiguan, den Herrscher des Wassers. Translation: The name for three Taoist deities: Tianguan, The Ruler of Heaven; Diguan, The Ruler of Earth; and Shuiguan, The Ruler of the Waters.]
三教 sam1-kau3: The three religions, Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist.
三官大帝 sam1-koan1 tai7-te3: The three gods of the three worlds. [See 三界公 sam1-kai3-kong1, above.]
三光 sam1-kong1: The three lights, sun, moon, and stars.
三鋼 sam1-kong1: The three headships, of sovereign, husband, and father. (p244: The three great relations or headships of king, father, and husband.)
三鋼五常 sam1-kong1 ngO2-siong5: [Not listed under 三, but listed under 鋼 kong1, p244: The three headships and five relationships of life. See also 五常 ngO2-siong5, under 五.]
三[兵?] sam1-phiaN1: Three powerful spirits.
三寶 sam1-po2: The Buddhist Triad. [CW: 三宝(佛教) <-> EW: The Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures, the Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem, are the three things that Buddhists take refuge in, and look toward for guidance, in the process known as taking refuge. The Three Jewels are: Buddha, Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), Sangha (the community of practicing Buddhists).]
三不五時 sam1-put4-gO7-si5: Occasionally. [Note: the 五 has colloquial, not literary pronunciation.]
三色旗 sam1-sek4-ki5: A three-coloured flag. [Yahoo: a tricolor.]
三牲 sam1-seng1: The three sorts of offerings.
三才 sam1-tsai5: The three powers, Heaven, earth, and man. [CW: "三才,即天、地、人。"]
三族 sam1-tsok8: Relatives of self, of mother, and of wife. [CW 三族 re-directs to 族誅 <-> EW: Nine exterminations, literally "continuous elimination of nine tribes" was the most serious punishment for a capital offense in Ancient China. This obviously refers to some other topic.]

p152 (listed under 皇, but not under 三)
三皇 sam1-hong5: the three ancient (mythical) emperors, hok8-hi1, sin5-long5, and ng5-te3.

p244 (listed under [unknown character], but not under 三)
三[unknown character]青 sam1-kong1-chhiN1: sort of violet or deep purple-coloured silk. [Also listed in MacGowan, with a different character for "kong1".]

The unknown character appears to be made up of half of the "bamboo radical" above "正", and these then both to the left of "工" (obviously functioning as a phonetic). The meaning of the character is supposed to be "a large-mouthed earthen jar". Douglas says "kong1" is the literary pronunciation, with colloquial equivalent "kng1". But under "kng1", p226, with the meaning "a large-mouthed earthen jar", he gives a different character: "岡" on the left, and "瓦" on the right. Neither of these characters seem to be in Unicode. As mentioned above, MacGowan renders this "kong1" as just 光.

p576 (listed under 層, but not under 三)
三層肉 sam1-tsan5-bah4: Pork having fat and lean in alternate layers.

Douglas also gives sam1-pan2: A small boat; a female slave with large feet. However, Douglas is incorrect here - this word is not related to 三; it's borrowed from Malay; CW renders this as 舢舨.]

4 - 四 (p461)

四物 su3-but8: Four other medicines. (As contrasted to 四君 su3-kun1, see below.) [CW has an indirect reference to this: 四物湯是傳統中醫流傳下來的藥方]
四正 su3-cheng3: Upright, as conduct.
四肢 su3-chi1: The four limbs. [Known compound in Mandarin as well.]
四海 su3-hai2: The four seas. [CW: 古中國的世界觀裡環繞中國四方的部]
四行 su3-hang5: The four lictors who walk or stand before a mandarin. [Merriam-Webster: lictor = "an ancient Roman officer who bore the fasces as the insignia of his office and whose duties included accompanying the chief magistrates in public appearances"]
四方 su3-hong1: Square.
四夷 su3-i5: The outside barbarians.
四季 su3-k(h)ui3: The four seasons. [Known compound in Mandarin as well.]
四君 su3-kun1: Four principle medicines. [See also 四物 su3-but8, above. Also note: 使君[子?/主?] su3-kun1-tsu2: Name of a medicine, listed under 使 p461; and also: A medicine much used for worms in children; fruit of Quisqualis sinensis, listed under 君 p252. So 使君[子?/主?] su3-kun1-tsu2 is not related to 四君 su3-kun1, despite their both being related to medicines. Furthermore, kun1-tsu2 is listed under 子 p591: 君子 A good man; a superior man, and not under 主. However, both 君子 and 君主 are known Mandarin compounds: 君子: Yahoo: (in Confucian tradition) a person of noble character and integrity; a gentleman; CW 君子 <-> EW Junzi: a term coined by Confucius to describe his ideal human. It is the Confucian quality of gentlemen; 君主: Yahoo: a king; a liege (or sovereign) lord; a potentate; a monarch; a sovereign; CW 君主 <-> EW Monarch.]
四平 su3-pheng5: Plays in the Swatow dialect.
四配 su3-phoe3: Duly proportioned.
四散 su3-san3: Dispersing in all directions, as people.
四書 su3-si1: The four books. [Chiangchew pronunciation of 四書 su3-su1, below.]
四時 su3-si5: The four seasons.
四神 su3-sin5: Four powerful medicines.
四書 su3-su1: The four books. [EW: The Four Books of Confucianism (not to be confused with the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature), are Chinese classic texts that Zhu Xi selected, in the Song dynasty, as an introduction to Confucianism: the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius, and the Mencius. The Four Books were, in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations.]
四字[頭?] su3-ji7-thau5: The 122nd radical written at the top. [This would appear to be 羊, which doesn't seem to make that much sense.]

5 - 五 (p343)

五味 ngO2-bi7: The five flavours. [Yahoo: 1.all flavors 2.sweetness, sourness, bitterness, peppery hotness, and saltiness]
五彩雲 ngO2-chhai2-hun5: Variegated clouds.
五尖 ngO2-chiam1: The five extremities of man or fowl.
五行 ngO2-heng5: The five elements. [CW 五行 <-> EW: Wu Xing, or the Five Movements, Five Phases or Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields. It is sometimes translated as Five Elements, but the Wu Xing are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, hence the preferred translation of "movements", "phases" or "steps" over "elements". By the same token, Mu is thought of as "Tree" rather than "Wood". The five elements are: Wood (木), Fire (火), Earth (土), Metal (金), Water (水).]
三觀五復 sam1-koan1 ngO2-hok4: To look over and over very carefully. [Not listed under 三, but under 五.]
五福 ngO2-hok4: The five blessings. (p149: the five blessings; all sorts of good fortune and happiness; variously enumerated, in Amoy generally, "hu3-lui3 tsai5-tsu2-siu7", wealth, honour, talent, posterity, and long life.)
五服 ngO2-hok8: The five degrees of relationship. (p150: The five degrees of relationship for which mourning is worn (only of the same surname, and does not include sisters)). [CW:]
五服内 ngO2-hok8-lai7: Related in the direct line within five generations.
五服外 ngO2-hok8-gua7: Only a distant relative, for whom mourning is not worn.
五方旗 ngO2-hong1-ki5: Five-coloured flags, either on one flag, or one of each colour.
五經 ngO2-keng1: The five classics. [EW: The Five Classics is a corpus of five ancient Chinese books used by Confucianism as the basis of studies. According to tradition, they were compiled or edited by Confucius himself. [They are] Classic of Changes (易經, Yi Jing), also known as the I Ching; Classic of Poetry or The Book of Odes (詩經, Shī Jīng); Classic of Rites (禮記 Lǐ Jì); Classic of History (書經 Shū Jīng); Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋 Chūn Qiū).]
五加皮 ngO2-ka1-phi5: a medicine. (p187: a yellow wine from the north flavoured with a drug (with Aralia palmata?); p394: a yellow liquor from Tien-tsin and the north.) [BFLUCED: 1. bark of the slender acanthopanax 2. a medicinal wine made by soaking the bark of the slender acanthopanax in liquor]
五官 ngO2-koan1: The features of the face, with the ears. [CW: 人類臉上的五個感官:眼、耳、鼻、口、舌。]
五穀 ngO2-kok4: The five grains. [CW 五谷 <-> EW The Five Chinese cereals (sometimes known as the five sacred grains or crops) are a group of five grains important in ancient China and regarded as sacred. ... There are various versions of which five crops are represented in the list. One version includes soybeans, rice, wheat, proso millet, and foxtail millet. Another version, given in the Classic of Rites, excludes rice and includes hemp. All but soybeans are cereal grains.]
五路人 ngO2-lO7-lang5: Men from all parts.
五倫 ngO2-lun5: The five relations of men. [EW: ruler and subject (君臣), father and son (父子), husband and wife (夫婦), elder and younger brother (兄弟), friend and friend (朋友); Yahoo: the traditional cardinal human relations: that between the ruler and the ruled; that between parents and children; that between siblings; that between husband and wife; and that between friends.]
五色 ngO2-sek4: The five colours, variegated.
五牲 ngO2-seng1: The five sorts of offerings.
五常 ngO2-siong5: The five relations of men = 五倫 ngO2-lun5. [See 五倫 ngO2-lun5, above.]
五帝 ngO2-te3: Five idols with three eyes.
五短生(張?) ngO2-toan2-siN1(-tiuN1): Short and stout; hands, legs, and neck all short, but well-formed.
五臟六腑 ngO2-tsong2 liok8-hu4: The internal organs. [CW: 五臟 re-directs to 臟腑 and CW: 六腑 re-directs to 臟腑 <-> EW: Zang Fu is a concept within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that describes the functions of the organs of the body and the interactions that occur between them. Zang 臟 refers to the yin organs - heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney, pericardium - whilst Fu 腑 refers to the yang organs - small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder, stomach and San Jiao.]
[十?]五[音?] sip8-ngO2-im1: The native dictionary of the Chang-poo form of the Chang-chew dialect.
端[五?]日 toan1-ngO2(-jit8): The fifth day of the fifth lunar month. [CW: 端not节) <-> EW: The Duanwu Festival (also known as Dragon Boat Festival or 端午節 in Chinese) is a traditional and statutory holiday associated with Chinese cultures, though it is celebrated in other East Asian and Southeast Asian societies as well. … The festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar on which the Chinese calendar is based. This is the source of the alternative name of Double Fifth.]

6 - 六 (p311)

六無 liok8-bu5: Having no near relations (said in reviling). [See 六親 liok8-chhin1, below.]
六親 liok8-chhin1: Near relatives. [Yahoo: the six relations; one's kin]
六節 liok8-chiet4: Full particulars; all the circumstances plainly and minutely stated.
六月[桑?] liok8-goat8-song1: A sort of cooling medicine.
六[X?] liok8-ngauN5: The diagram "ngauN5". (p341: one of the eight diagrams.)
六八平 liok8-pat4-p(h)eng5: The rate of counting dollars, as 6 chiN1 8 hun1 by the khO3-to5 weight.
六部 liok8-pO7: The six boards at Pekin. [CW: 六部,中國古代數個官署的統稱。從隋唐開始,對中央行政機構中的吏部、戶部、禮部、兵部、刑部、工部各部的總稱。]
六神 liok8-sin5: Spirits of six animals, propitiated by Taoist priests, said by the priests. [See also 六獸 liok8-siu3, below.]
六獸 liok8-siu3: Spirits of six animals, propitiated by Taoist priests. (p446: when building a house.)
六畜 liok8-thiok4: The domestic animals. [CW: 馬、牛、羊、豬、狗、雞。]
牛[頭?]六卒 gu5-thau5 liok8-tsut4: A clownish fellow.
五臟六腑 ngO2-tsong2 liok8-hu4: The intestines. [See under 五臟 ngO2-tsong2, above.]
三姑六婆 sam1-kO1 liok8-po5: Nuns and dangerous old women. [Not in Douglas under 三. CW: 三姑六婆原本指的是古代中国民女性的几 <-> DW: Sanguliupo is de benaming van de vrouwelijke beroepen in oud-China. In het moderne China verwijst het naar vrouwen die bij de plaatselijke put de nieuwste roddels uitwisselen. Sangu verwijst naar de drie geestelijke beroepen: boeddhistische non, taoïstische non en waarzegger. Liupo verwijst naar slavinnen en werkstershandelaar, huwelijksbemiddelaar, oude lerares, bordeleneigenaar, kruidenvrouwtje en verloskundige. Translated: 三姑六婆 is the name for female occupations in ancient China. In modern China, it refers to women who exchange the newest gossip at the village well. 三姑 refers to the three spiritual professions: Buddhist nun, Taoist nun, and fortune teller. 六婆 refers to a dealer in female slaves and workers, matchmaker, old lady teacher, madam in a brothel, woman well-versed in herbal treatments, and midwife.]

8 - 八 (p361)

八槳船 pat4-chiang2-tsun5: Eight-oared boats used by customs. [Not listed in Douglas under 槳, but too obvious to be anything else.]
八折 pat4-chiet4: Counting as 100 when really only 80. [Yahoo: 20 percent discount]
八分 pat4-hun1: The simpler form of the seal character. (p158: the sort of writing also called "le7-su1", because it is eight-tenths like "khai1" characters, and two-tenths like "thoan3" characters.)
八[字?][骹?] pat4-ji7-kha1: Walking with toes much turned out.
八仙 pat4-sien1: The eight genii, etc. [EW: The Eight Immortals are a group of legendary xian ("immortals; transcendents; fairies") in Chinese mythology. Each Immortal's power can be transferred to a power tool (法器) that can give life or destroy evil. Together, these eight tools are called "Covert Eight Immortals" (暗八仙 àn ~). Most of them are said to have been born in the Tang Dynasty or Song Dynasty. They are revered by the Taoists, and are also a popular element in the secular Chinese culture. They are said to live on Penglai Mountain-Island.]
八卦 pat4-koa3: The eight diagrams. [EW: eight diagrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each either "broken" or "unbroken," representing a yin line or a yang line, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as "trigrams" in English.]
八四[圍?]八達 pat4-su3-ui5 pat4-tat8: All round; everywhere; in all places.
八台/臺 pat4-tai5: A mandarin entitled to use eight bearers.
八團 pat4-thoan5: A pattern common on flowered silk.
八座 pat4-tso7: A sedan with eight bearers.
[拭?通?(wild guesses)]八達 chhit4-thong1 pat4-tat8: Road clear of obstacles, so as to be good for travelling.
[二?]八家人 ji3-pat4 ka1-jin5: A beautiful girl about sixteen years old. [Note: "ji3" is almost definitely 二, as 2 x 8 = 16. BFLUCED: 年方二八 "be only sixteen years of age".]
二八抽 ji3-pat4 thiu1: To get commission, etc, of 20 per cent. [Note: same pronunciation and meaning but different character from MacGowan's 二八.]
摸十八 mON1 sip8-pat4: To play a game with six dice.
四方八達 su3-hong1 pat4-tat8: All round; everywhere; in all places. [Not listed under 四, but too obvious to be anything else.]
四時八節 su3-si5 pat4-chiet4: The four seasons and eight terms. [Not listed under 四, but too obvious to be anything else.]

9 - 九 (p225)

九門提督 kiu2-bun5 the5-tok4: The military governor of Pekin. [CW: 「九門提督」是中國清朝時期的駐京武官; ... 0%E7%9D%A3]
九歸算法 kiu2-kui1 soan3-hoat4: The rules of arithmetic by the abacus.
九[連?]圈 kiu2-lien5-khoan5: The Chinese puzzle, made with rings and rods. [Does anyone know what this puzzle is? Here are a couple of references, but none of them seem particularly Chinese to me:,, The last of these does say that it might have a Chinese origin.]
九龍 kiu2-liong5: Nine dragons.
九流 kiu2-liu5: All sorts of priests, nuns, sorcerers, etc. [Note: CW has a very different definition, under 三教九流 - 1 三教 : 儒, 释, 道; 2. 九流: 在《漢書·藝文志》分別指:儒家、道家、陰陽家、法家、名家、墨家、縱橫家、雜家、農家。Probably a totally different word.]
九泉地下 kiu2-tsoan5 toe7-e7: The world of spirits.
一九趁 it4-kiu2 than3: To gain one-ninth of profit.

10 - 十 (p443)

十字互 sip8-ji7-hO3: Tied with strings or ropes crossed.
十[分?]好 sip8-hun1-ho2: The very best, very good. [Yahoo: blameless]
十字 sip8--ji7: The character "ten"; the figure of a perpendicular cross.
十字架 sip8-ji7-ke3: A cross for crucifixion. [CW 十字架 <-> EW Crucifixion]
十字街 sip8-ji7-koe1/ke1: place where streets cross at right angles.
十字路 sip8-ji7-lO7: place where roads or streets cross at right angles.
十惡 sip8-ok4: All sorts of wickedness. [Yahoo: atrociously, heinousness]
摸十八 mON1 sip8-pat4: A sort of gambling.
五十期 ngO2-sip8-ki5: The days ending in 5 or 0, e.g. 5, 10, 15, etc.
[no character given]十字架 phiah8 sip8-ji7-ke3: To crucify.
釘十字架 teng3 sip8-ji7-ke3: To crucify. [CW 釘十字架 re-directs to 十字架]
Last edited by SimL on Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:04 pm, edited 42 times in total.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Now the ones from MacGowan.

In contrast to the compounds in Douglas, these ones were much harder to find. I had to do a search on "sam", "su", "ngo", etc, and pick up the entries scattered all through the book (ignoring all the "sam" ones not related to 三, all the "su" ones not related to 四, etc). Also, I searched without diacritics, and if some of the compounds with diacritics were incorrectly OCR'd, then they would never turn up in the search, and I will have missed them.

As explained in the previous section, in Douglas, if I find "sam1-<blah>" as a compound listed under "sam1" 三, then I can only be confident of <blah> being character X if I can also find the compound "sam1-<blah>" listed with the same meaning under character X. If not, then I mark X with a question mark. In contrast, in this section, I haven't marked any of the characters with a question mark. This is because MacGowan is an English-Hokkien dictionary. So, for any particular (English-)meaning / (Chinese-)compound, these are the characters specifically assigned by MacGowan for that meaning. This is not to say that they are definitely the correct characters (any more than they are in Douglas), but they are characters which are never being "conjectured" by me, as is sometimes the case of Douglas. Hence the lack of a need for a question mark in this section.

As in the previous section, I've attempted to arrange the compounds more or less alphabetically. Here however, I haven't bothered to give a reference to the page the compound is found on. If you want to check for yourself in the pdf, the best way is to look for the English translation (as the OCR'ing of the English text is much more accurate).

3 - 三

三清 sam chheng: Trinity (Taoist). [Also in Douglas.]
三次比例 sam chhù pí lē: Triplicate.
三項式 sam hāng sek: Trinomial (Mathematics).
三合土 sam-háp-thÓ: Concrete. [Also in Douglas.]
三合會 sam háp hōe: Triad. [CW 三合會 <-> EW: Triad (underground societies), a term that describes many branches of Chinese underground society and/or criminal organizations.]
三翻五覆 sam hoan ngÓ-hok: Very deliberate, careful examination, revise thoroughly, examine closely.
三皇 sam-hông: Three ancient emperors.
三葉蘭 sam iáp lân: Aglaia odorota. [EW: <-> CW 米蘭(植物). Aglaia odorata is a species of plant in the Meliaceae family. It is found in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly Laos.]
三角法 sam kak hoat: Trigonometry.
三教 sam kàu: The three religions. [EW: [Three teachings] Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. Also in Douglas.]
三姑六婆 sam kO liók pô: (Woman) peddler. [See entry in Douglas, under 六.]
三光青 sam kong chhiN: Deep purple. [Similar word with different character for "kong" given in Douglas.]
三奈就是三賴 sam lāi tsiū sī sam nāiN: Capoor cutchery. [A site for English to Latin plant names gives: "capoor cutchery = kaempferia galanga", and EW: Kaempferia galanga, commonly known as kencur, aromatic ginger, sand ginger or resurrection lily, is a monocotyledonous plant in the ginger family. It is found primarily in open areas in southern China, Taiwan, Cambodia and India, but is also widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia. The plant is used as a herb in cooking in Indonesia, and especially in Java and Bali culinaries; its Indonesian name is kencur. Its leaves are used in the Malay rice dish, nasi ulam. Unlike Boesenbergia pandurata (grachai or Chinese key), kaempferia galanga is not commonly used in Thai cuisine but can be bought as a dried rhizome or in powder form at herbal medicine stalls. ... It is also used in Chinese cooking and Chinese medicine and is sold in Chinese groceries under the name Sha Jiang (沙姜), while the plant itself is referred to as shan nai (山柰). Kaempferia galanga has a peppery camphorous taste. It is one of four plants known as galangal, and is differentiated from the others by the absence of stem and dark brown rounded rhizomes, while the other varieties all have stems and pale rosebrown rhizomes]
三藍 sam-lâm: Light blue.
三寶 sam pó: Trinity (Buddhist). [Also in Douglas.]
三不(五)時 sam put (gŌ) sî: Occasionally. [Also in Douglas. Note: the 五 has colloquial, not literary pronunciation.]
三三 sàm-sàm: Matted (as hair).
三思 sàm-su: Meditate, contemplate, ponder, revolve in one's mind, deliberate.
[No characters given] sam tsâi: Trinity (Confucian).
三位一體 sam ūi it thé: Trinity (Christian). [CW 三位一體 <-> EW the (Christian) Trinity. Yahoo: [Religion] the Trinity]
糊三 hÔ-sàm: Ill-made.
將三改五 tsiong sam koé ngÓ: Deceive.
在先三思 taī seng sàm su: Premeditate.
自稱三齊王 tsū chheng sam tsê ông: Palliate, palliation.

4 - 四

四方 sù hong: Square, quadrangle, quadrate (squire) [must be misprint or mis-scan of "square"]. [Also in Douglas.]
四配 sù-phoè: Duly, proportional, well-proportioned. [Also in Douglas.]
四不上 sù put siōng: Odd.
四[亻匀 ] sù thīn: Well-proportioned.
四肢 sù tsi: Extremities. [Also in Douglas.]
名揚四海 bêng iông sù hái: Far-famed. [Yahoo: 名揚四海 well-known in the world; world-renowned]

5 - 五

五金 ngÓ kim: Metals.
五金的 ngÓ kim ê: Metallic.
五金之聲 ngÓ kim ê siaN: Metallic sound.
五官 ngÓ koan: Five organs, five senses.
五色衫 ngÓ-sek-saN: Patchwork (dress). [Must be quite a common phrase - 13,000,000 hits on Google.]
五臟六腑 ngÓ tsōng liók hú: Internal organs. [Also in Douglas.]
三翻五覆 sam hoan ngÓ-hok: see under 三.
四肢五官 sù tsi ngÓ koan: Of the body. [See also 四肢, above.]
將三改五 tsiong sam koé ngÓ: see under 三.

6 - 六

五臟六腑 ngÓ tsōng liók hú: see under 五.

8 - 八

八音琴 pat-im khîm: Musical boxes. [CW 八音盒 (note: not but ) <-> EW: Musical box]
八卦 pat-koà: The eight diagrams. [See also under Douglas.]
八卦衫 pat koà-saN: Patchwork (dress).
七穿八達 chhit chhoan pat tát: Fancy (imagination).
二八輸 jī-pat-thiu: 20 per cent commission. [Note: same pronunciation and meaning but different character from Douglas' 二八. There are many references in MacGowan to 輸 being pronounced thiu1, but this is not attested anywhere in Douglas, nor in the etymology page, both of which only have su1 for 輸.]
四圍八達 sì-ûi pat tát: Everywhere. [Note that 四 is not pronounced sù here, and this compound is hence not listed under 四.]

9 - 九

九龍 kiú-liông: Kowloon.

10 - 十

十字架 síp-jī-kè: Cross, crucifix. [Also in Douglas.]
十字路 síp-jī-lŌ: Crossroad.
十惡 sip-ok: Atrocious, atrocity. [Also in Douglas.]
釘十字架 tèng-síp-jī-kè: Crucifixion, crucify. [Also in Douglas.]
Last edited by SimL on Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:37 am, edited 15 times in total.

Posts: 830
Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:10 am
Location: Somewhere in the Hokloverse

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by Ah-bin »

What an excellent resource! Thank you Sim.

One that Douglas and MacGowan missed either because it is new or because it has a bad meaning is:

三八 Sam-pat: an insult directed at women.

I've heard it used on the podcast sometimes. I've read some odd folk etymologies about it, such as that it comes from the date of the UN International Women's Day (8th of March). But this was mainly celebrated in Communist countries, and wasn't known in the Republic of China (Taiwan), where the word sam-pat has been in use for a long time.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Hi Ah-bin,

Glad you liked the lists. It was rather a lot of work; much more than I envisaged when I first started. Even after posting the entries, I still found lots of cross-references I hadn't made, and small typos, and words not quite in alphabetical order, (or the wrong sort of brackets being used), etc, etc, so there was a lot of editing of the entries after posting them. (In fact, I'm still editing as I notice other small improvements.)

I'm not familiar with 三八, so it's great that you added it to the list.

I started work on the Barclay part last night, thinking that there would be like 1-2 new compounds for each of the digits, but there are many more than I expected (though not, of course, as many as in Douglas itself). Plus, I've always had the impression that Barclay is less thorough than Douglas in always having a compound XY listed both under character X and under character Y, so I may have to relax my stringent requirement of always being able to find a compound under all the component characters before giving the character rendition.
Last edited by SimL on Tue Jan 26, 2010 8:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

五尖 ngO2-chiam1: The five extremities of man or fowl.
While looking into this, I came across a short description somewhere, which explained that (I'm paraphrasing) "for a bird, the five extremities refer to the two legs, the two wings, and the neck/head".

I've been looking for the reference everywhere, but it's now nowhere to be found, to my great frustration.

I don't even remember if I saw it "on paper" (perhaps one of my Mandarin English dictionaries) or on the internet.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Ah-bin wrote:One that Douglas and MacGowan missed either because it is new or because it has a bad meaning is:

三八 Sam-pat: an insult directed at women.
I think more because it is new (or simply missed) in the case of Douglas, in all events. Time and again I've been impressed with the things covered by Douglas: sexually-related terms, abusive terms, unpleasant subjects, etc. Considering that he was a missionary in the 19th century, I've repeatedly been surprised at the terms which he wasn't shy about reporting. Kudos to Douglas! (I read somewhere that the dictionary was acknowledged and praised - already at the time of initial publication - as one of the masterpieces of lexicography, and I fully support that view.)

Posts: 734
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2005 3:23 pm
Location: Singapore

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by niuc »

Hi Sim

Kudos to your effort! :mrgreen:

We have 六桂堂 in Bagansiapiapi too. It is quite common for several surnames to share one clan association (and temple) there.

About 六味 'liok8-bi7', it is a kind of Chinese herbal pill. Here is the explanation (in Chinese):

四物, 八珍 and 十全 are tonic soups:

About 三八, in my understanding it means "kaypoh (busybody) and at the same time sloppy".

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Hi Niuc,

Glad you liked the lists too. I just posted something for you on "ordinals" and "cardinals" in the old topic.

Thanks for the links. I saw the first one (and partly quoted from it, I think). The last of the three won't load at the moment, but I'll try again later. Erm... do you know how to write "kaypoh" / "ke-po"?

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Oops! My apologies. The quote I had in mind was "四物湯是傳統中醫流傳下來的藥方", not the one from the link you provided: "六味地黄丸是中药方剂和中成药的统称。". :oops:, sorry!

Posts: 734
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2005 3:23 pm
Location: Singapore

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by niuc »

Hi Sim

If I remember correctly, there was a discussion about "kaypoh" (ke1-po5 in my variant) a few years back. In Mandarin (esp. Taiwan) it is written as 雞婆, even my Beijing friends know the term. However 雞婆 doesn't fit my variant as it is 'kue1-po5'. I tend to think of it as 加婆, because 加工 'ke1-kang1' (lit. to add work) in my variants almost always used to mean "adding more works that are not needed and yielding worse results", i.e. 畫蛇添足 "to add legs while drawing a snake". If not mistaken, 加婆 doesn't fit into Penang/Ciangciu variants. Some say that it is 家婆 (husband's mother in Mandarin, 'ta1-ke1' in Hokkien), its pronunciation fits in my variant, how about yours? If 家婆 is the proper hanji, probably it is from 管家婆 (head of servants/housekeepers) that usually needed/wanted to know everything that happened in the house.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

niuc wrote:If not mistaken, 加婆 doesn't fit into Penang/Ciangciu variants. Some say that it is 家婆 (husband's mother in Mandarin, 'ta1-ke1' in Hokkien), its pronunciation fits in my variant, how about yours? If 家婆 is the proper hanji, probably it is from 管家婆 (head of servants/housekeepers) that usually needed/wanted to know everything that happened in the house.
In both cases I say "kE1", so that spoils it for that theory too, unfortunately.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Finally, the numbers with literary pronunciation from Barclay.

My gut-feeling was quite accurate: Barclay is much less consistent about listing a compound under all the characters which make up the compound. So, here, I've just made my "best guess" as to the characters, with a question mark where I'm slightly uncertain. (If I'm very uncertain, then I don't try to guess the character at all.)

As in the previous sections, I've attempted to arrange the compounds more or less alphabetically.

Ah-bin: you may be pleased to see that your 三八 is listed in Barclay, under 三, with the meaning "coarse, vulgar" (which I think fits in quite well with the meaning you gave of it being "an insult directed at women"). Niuc: Barclay, under 八, has: 三八 hit4 e5 lang5 sam1-pat4 "that man talks at random" (which I think fits in quite well with the meaning you gave of "sloppy").

I'm tempted to proof-read and improve this even more, but I think I'll just post, and update it if I discover any additional things, as I have done with both the Douglas and MacGowan postings.

3 - 三 (p189)

三叉路 sam1-chhe1-lO7: Place where three roads meet.
三[X?][講?][著?][Y?Z?][聽?] sam1-chhit4 kong2 tioh8 su3-kiok8 thiaN1: When a man talks in an unreliable way, we may believe only a certain amount.
[三?][食?][三?][X?]的[老大?] sam1 chiah8 sam1-seng1 e5 lau7-toa7: Said of an official who manages a case only when something is to be made out of it. [Yahoo: 老大 = 1. old 2. the eldest among siblings 3. resting on the laurels and loosing aggressive and adaptability. BFLUCED: 1. (formal) old (in age) 2. number one (in order of seniority)]
三[X?]三[Y?] sam1-chin1 sam1-the1: movements in the worship of Confucius, said of irresolute man.
三[X?] sam1-ge5: A reddish fish about a foot long, considered good eating.
三[X?]五復 sam1-hoan1 ngO2-hok4: To go over a rekoning several times, to act with great care and accuracy. [Not listed under 五. A similar term 三五復 sam1-koan1 ngO2-hok4 "to look over and over very carefully" is given in Douglas.]
三角法(術) sam1 kak4-hoat4 (sut8): Trigonometry. [Also in MacGowan.]
三[欺?]兩, 兩[欺?]一 sam1 khi1 liong2, liong2 khi1 chit4: Three oppress two and two oppress one.
三[公?會?] sam1 kong1-hoe7: The three Missions at Amoy. [公會 almost definitely correct, under 會 p70: 公會 = "the Home Committee; the Mission Council; the Sanhedrim", and under 公 p245: 公會 = "public society or association". Note: EW Sanhedrin "sitting together" (hence "assembly" or "council") was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Land of Israel.]
三五成群 sam1-ngO2 seng5-kun5: Assembling in bands. [Not listed under 五. Yahoo: 成群 1. in large numbers; in groups; in multitudes; in clusters; in flocks 2. clustering; ganging; grouping. indicates that 三五成群 is a 成语, meaning: 几个人、几个人在一起。]
三八 sam1-pat4: Coarse, vulgar ("sam1-pat4" = 11, the characters for which written together form the character for "thO2"). [See also under 八, with a slightly different meaning.]
三時五[X?] sam1 si5 gO7 tiau1: Occasionally. [Similar to Douglas and MacGowan 三不(五)時 "cccasionally". Note: the 五 has colloquial, not literary pronunciation.]
三島國 sam1-to2-kok8: The three-island kingdoms, Great Britain and Ireland or Japan.
[X?]三 a1-sam1: Tamarind. [Probably borrowed from Malay "asam", and hence not really a 三. EW: Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) (from Latinization of Arabic: تمر هندي tamar hindi = Indian date) is a tree in the family Fabaceae. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic (having only a single species). Contrary to common belief, Tamar Indicus is endemic to tropical Africa, particularly where it continues to grow wild in Sudan; it is also cultivated and discovered by ivan almazan in Cameroon, Nigeria and Tanzania. It reached India likely through human transportation and cultivation several thousand years prior to the Common Era. It was in India that it was first described by Western botanists as Tamarindus indica, the Latin derivative of the Persian and the Arabic name commonly attributed to it: "tamar al-Hind" or the Hindustani date. It is widely distributed throughout the Tropical belt, from Africa to India, and throughout South East Asia, Taiwan and as far as China. … Alternative names for tamarind include Imli, Indian date, translation of Turkish language "Demirhindi" Arabic تمر هندي tamr hindī. Globally, it is most numerous in India, where it is widely distributed and has a long history of human cultivation. Many Indian regional languages have their own unique name for the tamarind fruit. In Oriya it is called tentuli; in Bengali the tentul; Hindi and in Urdu imli; Gujarati the amli. and Marathi and Konkani the chinch. In Sinhala call it the siyambala; Telugu chintachettu (tree) and chintapandu (fruit extract); Tamil and Malayalam the puli (புளி) and in Kannada it is called hunase (ಹುಣಸೆ) and in Cook Islands Maori is called 'tamarene'. In Indonesia, tamarind is known as the asam (or asem) Jawa (means Javanese asam), which in the Indonesian language, translates as Javanese sour [sic: fruit] (though the literature may also refer to it as sambaya). In Malaysia, it is called asam in the Javanese-influenced Malay language of Melayu (modern Central Sumatra). In the Philippines, tamarind is referred to as sampaloc, which is occasionally rendered as sambalog in Tagalog and sambag in Cebuano. Vietnamese term is me. In Taiwan it is called loan-tz. In Myanmar it is called magee-bin (tree) and magee-thee (fruit).The tamarind is the provincial tree of the Phetchabun province of Thailand (in Thailand it is called ma-kham). In Malagasy it is called voamadilo and kily. CW: 酸豆別名罗望子、酸角、酸子、九层皮、印度枣、泰国甜角、酸梅树、亞森果,是豆科酸豆属唯一的种. Sim: The fact that "asam" is rendered using , which is the Cantonese pronunciation of the character, is further indication that it is borrowed into Chinese via Malay.]
[出?][三?][X?] chhut4 sam1-ban7: To issue a "summons". [Note: perhaps borrowed from English "summons", and hence not really a 三.]
[X?]三[Y?]五 chiong1 sam1 koe2 ngO2: To change three into five, to improve a man's lot (like his whose span of life was change from thirty to fifty years in the book of fate). [Not listed under 五.]
[掠???(wild guess)]三[X?] liah8 sam1-seng1: Rioters, ruffians (ready to die). [One article on the internet claims that samseng is 三星: "it has been postulated that the word sam seng (three star) was derived from the fact that recruits from the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) used to wear caps emblazoned with three stars, each one representing one of the main races in Malaya: the Malays, Chinese and Indians". Note: however, it is unclear if the "liah8 sam1-seng1" as given by Barclay is the same "sam1-seng1" as the Malaysian usage "ruffian, hooligan". This is because neither Douglas nor Barclay list the basic term "sam1-seng1". If the MPAJA-explanation is correct, then it would explain why the basic term wasn't known to both Douglas and Barclay.]
不三不四 put4-sam1 put4-si3: Imperfect, ineffective. [Also a Mandarin phrase. Yahoo: 1. dubious; indecent 2. nondescript; neither fish, flesh nor fowl. BFLUCED: 1. dubious, shady 2. neither one thing nor the other, neither fish nor fowl, nondescript.]

4 - 四 (p214)

四[X?]花 su3-chiu1-hoe1: Name of a flower (? verbena). [No useful information on Verbena in EW and CW with respect to this term.]

p72 (listed under 方, but not under 四)
四方拜 su3-hong1-pai3: Imperial worship on New Year's day for welfare of the nation.
四方神 su3-hong1-sin5: The spirits which preside over the four quarters.
四方莊 su3-hong1-tsng1: The surrounding villages.

p187 (listed under 配 but not under 四)
四配 su3-phoe3: the four sages worshipped along with Confucius, "the four Assessors". [Note: additional meaning, supplementing the one given in both Douglas and MacGowan.]

使君子 su3-kun1-tsu2: A climbing flowering plant, somewhat like honey-suckle. [This shouldn't be listed under 四 at all. CW 使君子 <-> EW Quisqualis indica also known as the Chinese honeysuckle or Rangoon Creeper is a creeper with red flower clusters and is found in Asia. Douglas correctly has su3-kun1-tsu2 listed under 使君, p461 and p252. Note: not 四君子, as this is a known compound: CW: 花中四君子是梅、兰、菊、竹 <-> EW: The "Four Gentlemen", also called the Four Noble Ones or Four Friends, in Chinese art refers to four plants: the orchid, the bamboo, the chrysanthemum, and the plum blossom. The term compares the four plants to Confucianist junzi, or "gentlemen". A painting or decoration incorporating all four plants is also known as the "Four Gentlemen". They are most typically depicted in traditional ink and wash The "Four Gentlemen" belong to the category of bird-and-flower painting in Chinese art.]

5 - 五 (p160)

五[X?Y?] ngO2-bi7-ke3: A cruet stand. [EW: A cruet is a small flat-bottomed vessel with a narrow neck. Cruets often have an integral lip or spout, and may also have a handle. Unlike a small carafe, a cruet has a stopper or lid. Cruets are normally made from glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.]
五[X?Y?] ngO2-bi7-kiuN1: A preparation of several kinds of medicine mixed together, to allay sick vomiting.
五[行?] ngO2-hang5: The foreign hongs at Amoy. [EW: The Hongs (Chinese: 行) were major business houses in Hong Kong with significant influence on patterns of consumerism, trade, manufacturing and other key areas of the economy.]
五刑 ngO2-heng5: The five forms of punishment. [BFLUCED: The five chief forms of punishment in ancient China (tattooing the face 墨, cutting off the nose 劓, cutting off the feet 剕, castration 宮, and decapitation 大辟). CW gives 刖 as an alternative term for 剕.]
五[香?][未?/抹?] ngO2-hiong1-boah8: a mixture of seasonings powdered, for use in cooking. [Perhaps related to Sim's 五香粉 ngO2-hiong1-hun2: "Five-spice powder". Note: Barclay lists ngO2-hiong1-boah8 also under 末 p10, but it seems more appropriate under 抹.]
五鄉莊 ngO2-hiong1-tsng1: The surrounding villages.
五甲龍 ngO2-jiau2-leng5: The imperial five-clawed dragon, said in scolding a child for eating with its fingers.
五棓子 ngO2-poe7-chi2: Nutgall. [ gives: 即没食子酸。又称五棓子酸。CW 没食子酸 <-> EW Gallic acid is an organic acid, also known as 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid, found in gallnuts, sumac, witch hazel, tea leaves, oak bark, and other plants.]
五色旗 ngO2-sek4-ki5: The flag of the Republic. [CW 五色旗 -> EW: Flag of the Republic of China. But note that EW Flag of the Republic of China does not link back to CW 五色旗, but instead to CW 中華民國國旗.]
五[大][X?]洲 ngO2-tai7(-pO7)-chiu1: The five continents.
五族共和 ngO2-tsok8 kiong7-ho5: The Republic of the five races, China, Manchuria, Mongolia, Mohammedan and Tibet. [i.e. the PRC.]

6 - 六 (p147)

六空六 liok8-khong3-liok8: Salvarsan, 606. [EW Arsphenamine, also known as Salvarsan and 606, is a drug that was used to treat syphilis and trypanosomiasis. It was the first modern chemotherapeutic agent.]
六八銀 liok8-pat4 gun5: Dollars weighing 6 mace 8 candareens. [Not listed under 八. EW: A candareen (Chinese: 分) is a traditional measurement of weight in East Asia. It is equal to 10 cash and is 1/10 of a mace. It is approximately 378 milligrams. A troy candareen is approximately 374 milligrams. In Hong Kong, one candareen is 0.3779936375 gramme and in ordinance 22 of 1884, it is 2⁄150 oz. avoir. The candareen was also formerly used to describe a unit of currency in imperial China equal to 10 li (釐) and is 1/10 of a mace. The Mandarin Chinese word fēn is currently used to denote 1/100th of a Chinese renminbi yuan but the term candareen for currency is now obsolete. EW: A mace (錢; Hong Kong English usage also: tsin; Southeast Asian English usage: chee) is a traditional Chinese measurement of weight in East Asia that was also used as a currency denomination. It is equal to 10 candareens and is 1⁄10 of a tael or approximately 3.78 grams. A troy candareen is approximately 3.74 grams. In Hong Kong, one mace is 3.779936375 gramme and in Ordinance 22 of 1884, it is 2⁄15 oz. avoir. In imperial China, 10 candareens equalled 1 mace which was 1⁄10 of a tael and, like the other units, was used in weight-denominated silver currency system. A common denomination was 7 mace and 2 candareens, equal to one silver Chinese yuan.]
六[X?] liok8-phuh8: Six dice all the same.
呼么喝六 hO1-io1 hat4-liok8: Disputing noisily (fig. from gamblers, some shouting for ace some for six). [Douglas p138 gives 呼 hO1: to breathe out; to call; to order. Douglas p172 gives 么 io1: the throw of one in playing dice, an ace. Douglas p120 gives 喝 hat4 as being the equivalent in literary pronunciation of 喝 hoah4: to speak loud and angrily, as in finding fault with a man, or in saying, I will have nothing to do with it. Many gambling-related hits on Google search for "呼么喝六".]
汝害我到六[七?][X?仔?][Y?] li2 hai7 gua2 kau3 liok8 chhit4 hoe5-a2 poeh4: You have injured me very seriously.
雙六 siang1-liok8: Double six dominoes. [Yahoo: tricktrack 西洋雙六之一種. EW: Shut the Box, Tric-Trac, Canoga, Klackers (or Batten down the Hatches or High Rollers) is a game of dice for one or more players, mostly played in a group of two to four (possibly for stakes, gambling). Traditionally a counting box is used with tiles numbered 1 to 9 where each can be discretely covered with a hinged or sliding mechanism. Alternatively it could be played with a sheet of paper. Variations exist where the box has up to 10 or 12 tiles.]

p39 (listed under 七, but not under 六)
七六事件 chhit4-lok8 (-liok8) su7-kiaN7: miscellaneous matters; odds and ends.

8 - 八 (p168)

八音箱 pat4-im1-siuN1: A musical box. [MacGowan has 八音琴, and CW 八音盒, both meaning "musical box".]
八[通?][觀?] pat4-thong1-koan1: Name given to high mountain from the top of which one can see in all directions. [CW has a reference to a specific mountain in Taiwan: 八通關山為台灣知名山峰,也是台灣百岳之一,排名第64, but this cannot be pat4-thong1-koan1, as the meaning of 關 is "mountain pass", not "look", which needs 觀.]
二八[亂?穿?衣?] ji7-pat4 loan7 chhoan1 i1: Clothing is uncertain in the second and eighth month.
三八期 sam1-pat4-ki5: Days of the month ending in figures 3 and 8, on which cases were tried in yamun, etc. [Not listed in Barclay under 三. cf. Douglas 五十期 ngO2-sip8-ki5: The days ending in 5 or 0, e.g. 5, 10, 15, etc.]
三八 hit4 e5 lang5 sam1-pat4: That man talks at random. [See also under 三 p189, with a slightly different meaning. Barclay has a reference here to "thO2", so this must be the same sam1-pat4 as the one under 三 (which has a similar reference). Unfortunately, in neither Douglas nor Barclay does there seem to be a character listed under "thO2" with some visual resemblance to either 三 or 八.]

p200 (not listed under 八, but under 仙)
八仙彩 pat4-sien1 chhai2: a large piece of red cloth, embroidered with figures of the 8 genii, hung outside the door on occasion of rejoicing. [200+ images found by Google image search, e.g. ... A%F63s.jpg and ... 236065.jpg]

9 - 九 (p108)

九九[合?][X?] kiu2-kiu2 hap8-sO3: The multiplication table. [CW: 九九表 … 是中国古代筹算中进行乘法、除法、开方等运算中的基本计算规则. Translated (approx): 九九表 were the basic computational rules for performing mathematical operations such as multiplication, division, and extracting of square roots in ancient China using calculating rods. CW 乘法表 <-> EW Multiplication table, and there is a proposal to unite CW 乘法表 with CW 九九表.]
九八[行?] kiu2-pat4-hang5: A commission agency receiving 10% or 20% commission. [Not listed under 八.]
[天九[字?] thien1-kiu2 ji7: Dominoes.
天九牌] thien1-kiu2 pai5: Dominoes. [ Tin kau tiles: Gambling paraphernalia. 天九牌(我家乡又叫骨牌或百墩), with photograph of dominoes. CW 骨牌 <-> EW: Dominoes.]
抽牌九 thiu1 pai5 kiu2: To play out 8 dominoes at the beginning of the game. [Many hits on internet, e.g. "抽牌九,就是赌博". Translated: 抽牌九 - this is gambling.]

10 - 十 (p205)

赤十字社 chhiah4-sip8-ji7 sia7: The Red Cross Society. [Note: this appears to be (in Chinese) an older name for the Red Cross. Google hits for "赤十字社" are mostly Japanese, or referring to Manchukuo. 赤十字社 has no article in CW and doesn't re-direct, but 紅十字社 and 紅十字會 both re-direct to CW 紅十字會與紅新月會國際聯合會 <-> EW International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.]

p230 (listed under 哲, but not under 十)
十二哲 sip8-ji7-tiet4: Twelve sages in the temple of Confucius.
Last edited by SimL on Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

Well, one more thing. If anyone knows any of the characters which I've indicated with a "?", then I'd be very grateful if they posted them here.


Posts: 1407
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
Location: Amsterdam

Re: Literary vs. Colloquial pronunciation of numbers

Post by SimL »

niuc wrote:If I remember correctly, there was a discussion about "kaypoh" (ke1-po5 in my variant) a few years back.
Hi Niuc,

I did remember it, but the search (advanced or otherwise) doesn't work for me. Even when I try it now, with all the variants of "kaypoh", "ke1-po5", "busybody", etc, I still only get the latest postings. I've had this problem before. Perhaps it can't find any postings which were made before the transfer to the new site...?