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I saw a portion of a video course of Japanese tutorials aimed at Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, and notice that while introducing Japanese numbers, they translated the Japanese word for 600 as 六百, then straight afterwards, the word for 800 as 八佰 (with the hundreds place in 大寫).

I can't think of a reason for the inconsistency — can you?

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Is this question about Cantonese? –  Alenanno Feb 26 '12 at 1:44
    
No, the translations are in the written register (and not read out), and so Cantonese isn't actually anything to do with it. The only connection might be if this is specific to written Chinese as used in Hong Kong, vs. elsewhere. –  jogloran Feb 26 '12 at 1:50
    
maybe it's a typo? –  trideceth12 Feb 26 '12 at 4:01
    
@jogloran Don't worry, your question would be on topic even if it was about Cantonese. :) I was asking because in that case I would have added the appropriate tag. –  Alenanno Feb 26 '12 at 12:17
    
@Alenanno: Thanks. Well, I'm starting to think this was just some program producer's flight of fancy rather than anything meaningful... –  jogloran Feb 26 '12 at 23:37
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4 Answers 4

It's for security. Upper-case of Chinese numbers prevent the number on financial forms from being modified.

o一二三四五六七八九十百千 vs 零壹貳參肆伍陸柒捌玖拾佰仟

For example, you can easily make 一 become 二 or 十, but you cant make 壹 become 貳.

Independent meanings of each character:
1. 壹: Consistent
2. 貳: Another
3. 參: Join (參加)
4. 肆: Presumptuous (放肆)
5. 伍: Associate with (與...為伍)
6. 陸: Land (陸地)
7. 柒: simplified 漆 which means Paint
8. 捌: a kind of farm tools; another written of 扒
9. 玖: a kind of black stone
10. 拾: pick (拾取)

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The OP already knows about 大写 characters, as indicated in the question itself. The question is about the inconsistent use of 百 and 佰 in a translation, not about the use of characters like 佰 in general. –  Jon Feb 26 '12 at 14:29
    
Each 大寫 number has its own meaning, but the modern usages of them are only for numbers. –  Peter Chung Feb 26 '12 at 14:40
    
I just added their meanings. There are some different meanings of them according to the pronunciation. –  Peter Chung Feb 26 '12 at 14:53
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This is not actually an answer, more a guess.

It is possible that they simply used 百 in line with the Japanese, and used 佰 according to their own custom (Hong Kong), and forgot to harmonise the two. Nothing mysterious, just a case of less than careful editing. A lot of Chinese might not even notice that there is any inconsistency.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

A possible answer which accounts for the fact that the video was made in Hong Kong:

The cangjie (倉頡) code (the input method prevalent in Hong Kong) for 八佰 is HO OMA, and the code for 八百 is HO MA. A simple duplicated character would account for the error.

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"八佰伴" is the official Chinese translation of a Japanese retail group, Yaohan, of which the Japanese name is written as "ヤオハン" or "八百半".[1] This retail groups is well-known among certain Japanese/Chinese population and maybe the source of the erroneous translation of "八佰".

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Thanks. Yes, that did come to mind... –  jogloran Mar 6 '12 at 11:59
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