1

掰着手指数数

The above (along with 掰着手数数 and 掰着手指头数数) seems to mean "to count on one's fingers" (ref.), however I'm a little confused as to why 掰 is in here:

CC-CEDICT: 掰 (bāi​): to break off or break open sth with one's hands / (fig.) to break off (a relationship)

When I see the character 掰, I think this:

Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-breaking-a-bread-5590961/

Some object (typically bread, a chocolate bar, or roast sweet potato) is being broken into multiple chunks, perhaps to share with a friend or sibling. Thus when I see 掰着手指, I think "breaking fingers/hands into multiple chunks", which is obviously the wrong meaning.

Question: How should I understand 掰 ("to break off") in 掰着手指数数 ("to count on one's fingers")?

1

3 Answers 3

1

「掰着手指數數」 is specifically for toddlers learning to count with their fingers. In this situation, you have the motion described by 「掰」, where one hand unravels (掰) the other hand's fingers one-by-one whilst counting from 1 upwards, as if peeling a banana or breaking apart cloves of garlic.

1

掰 can mean to break an item apart with your fingers, but in this case you are breaking apart the fingers of your hand itself (imagine starting with a fist and breaking it apart to separate out the fingers). You will actually see this as an example definition on pleco for 掰 with the phrase 掰著手指算, the more standard way to describe math with your fingers (can be taken literally as pull apart the fingers from each other and calculate).

掰着手指数数 is the version specifically for kids/babies learning, as 數數 is a more babyish way to say 算. It is usually used specifically for simple counting versus 算 could be used for more complex math, like using your fingers to assist in proper arithmetic etc.

Compare 心算 for doing counting or maths entirely in your head.

Also compare that there can be other scenarios where 掰 can be used for breaking something open, such as 掰了大眼 (literally open eyes big).

1

掰 is the act of using fingers, with/without part of the palm, of one hand to bend an item held by the other hand.

掰着手指数数 - Bend(掰) and fold a finger down for each number(数,v) counted(数,n). (as though you don't need to memorize the count but simply look at how many fingers are folded = the number counted.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.