Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 4 News List

‘Unlucky’ homophones behind ID card changes

SUPERSTITIOUS MINDS:One person who developed cancer blamed the last three digits of their ID, while another felt that his number caused him to lose his job

By Tsai Hsu-yuan, Hsu Kuo-chen and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

A father in Taichung on Tuesday sought to change his newborn daughter’s national identification card after receiving a card number that was homophonically inauspicious.

The father said he wanted to change the card since the last four digits of its number, “5748,” in Mandarin sounded too much like wo qu si ba (我去死吧) “I will just go die.”

Household registration office officials said the situation occurs with number combinations such as “38426,” which is homonymous with the Mandarin phrase san ba si ah lu (三八死阿陸) “ditzy Chinese woman” and “80595,” which in Mandarin sounds like ba ling wo qiu wo (霸凌我救我) “bully me, save me.”

Told by officials that someone else would need to take the number before he could be given a new one, the father waited at the registration office all morning and into the afternoon, office officials said, adding that a mother finally agreed to accept the digits for her son in the afternoon, ending the standoff.

“It is a matter of personal interpretation whether the homophonic reading of the numbers is important … there is no standard about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” an office official said.

Office director Chen Pei-yu (陳佩玉) compared the desire to change an inauspicious identification card number to a desire to change a vulgar-sounding name.

Chen cited the case of a Chinese spouse who waited a month to change a card with a number ending “38426.”

The number was eventually taken by another Chinese woman, she said.

The effect of an inauspicious number feels very real to some people, Chen said, citing a man who lost his job and had trouble finding a new one, which he blamed on the last four numbers of his card, “0404,” that in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) sounds similar to “drink to death, drink to death.”

Another person, who developed cancer, felt the last three numbers of their card, “246,” which in Hoklo sounds like “go die,” was to blame, while another person who was frequently mistreated by their coworkers connected their misfortune with the last five digits of their card, “80595.”

Chen said that cards with numbers ending in four, which sounds like the Chinese for si (死) “die,” are no longer issued, adding that people with the number four in their identification number or other inauspicious combinations of numbers can apply to change their cards.

However, numbers can only be changed once, she said, adding that people under investigation or in detention cannot have their identification numbers changed.

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