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A certain dialog in my book has a man describing the symptoms of his cold to the doctor. It reads thus:


The English translation on the next page read, "Doctor: Do you have a fever? Man: Yes, I do, since yesterday. Last night I came down with the chills and started shivering, and I was afraid I'd get a really high fever. Now it's only about 37.8°C though."

My question is, was the original Japanese sentence a typo and should have said 37度8分 instead of just 7度8分, or do Japanese people commonly just refer to body temperatures by the number of degrees over 30? Although if it's the latter, how would you refer to a body temperature of 40 or more (for argument's sake; ignoring the fact that you'd probably be dead)?

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Small aside: 40C or more, while definitely not a sign of good health, is reasonably common (and fortunately rarely leads to death ;-) – Dave Aug 24 '11 at 0:46
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Your book is correct. When talking about human body temperature, 三十 is often omitted, probably because it is obvious. While there is nothing wrong with saying 37度8分 (37.8 degrees Celsius), it is often abbreviated to 7度8分. Even 37度 (37 degrees Celsius) without a fractional part sometimes becomes 7度.

You cannot abbreviate the temperature when it is 40 degrees or higher. As for unusually low body temperature, I would guess that many people avoid abbreviating, say, 31度5分 (31.5 degrees Celsius) to 1度5分, because it is so unusual that it is not immediately clear what it means if abbreviated.

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