[8, 9] Counting in Vietnamese: Counting is more than a merely internal, private affair. True (as Wittgenstein has it), I memorized the cardinal numbers in Vietnamese--muoi, mot, hi, ba, bon, nam, sao, bay, tam, chin--but it was only by going out into the world & using them that I actually learned how to count. After I had been living in Hanoi about six months, I was one day walking down a sidestreed near the Cathedral that led to one of my favorite cafes. There was a young woman with a couple of baskets sitting on the sidewalk & as I drew nearer I could see that she was selling kitchen impliments--knives, scissors, peelers, etc. I'm a cook & love this sort of stuff, so I stopped to have a look. There was a small pair of scissors with a mechinism I found interesting, so, holding the object between us I asked, "Bao niheu tien?" [How much money?] "Ba nghin" [3000 dong (25 cents US)], she replied. But I heard, "ba muoi nghin" [30,000 ($2.50 US)], an amount reasonable for a small pair of scissors in my world. For a month--until my language skills improved enough to tell her that I realized I had overpaid her, that girl made a beeline for me whenever she saw me coming. In her world, I was the man who paid an order of magniture too much. When I was finally able to tell her I had realized my mistake, we both had a good laugh. "Nguoi My rat giau!" she said as we were parting--"Americans are very rich!" This story illustrates, I think, that counting is a socially mediated activity. Why in the world would one of our ancestors bothered enumerating something if not to tell another soul something significant, or to buy something? "When a child learns this language, it has to learn a series of 'numerals' a, b, c, . . . by heart. And it has to learn their use . . . ." [9] "When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." [I Cor. xiii. 11.] Oh, but in my dreams I am just a little baby mouthing syllables! I am polymorphously perverse!


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