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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Counting on your fingers

1, 3, 7... ha ha ha
You know how to count on your fingers, don't you? Of course you do. Everyone knows how and we all do it the same way, don't we? Nope, it turns out that we don't.

This came up when the wife was counting some stuff with one hand using an odd method involving touching knuckles and stuff. Weird. Yeah well it turns out that Professor Yutaka Nishiyama of Osaka University has researched the entire topic and published a paper on the various methods of counting on your fingers which saves me a hell of a lot of bother.

When looking up the prof on his university's website, I couldn't help but notice an excellently Japanese spelling error in the URL.

Ha ha ha. Casual racism's great isn't it?

Okay, so luckily enough Professor Nishiyama's research paper is available online and in English. It turns out that French people start with the thumb, ancient Romans went the other way round, the Japanese count with their fingers bent, Indians count finger segments and the Chinese are just mental (which is hardly news). He's even got some interesting thoughts on how the different methods evolved. Click the link and be surprisingly fascinated. You can even learn a different method just to be annoying at parties.


  1. It seems to me that if I'm counting I often use the French thumb-first method, but if indicating, the index-finger first one.

    I always find it interesting reading Japanese papers translated into English. They often seem to be written in a more discursive manner, less rigorously structured than a corresponding English language text would be.

    1. Excellent point about Japanese papers. Funnily enough, I'd expect them to be more formal, following a rigid structure but yeah, it tends to be the opposite, making them much more pleasant to read.

      Professor Nishiyama seems to be an interesting fellow and I'll be doing at least one other article involving his work.