# When (or how) were simplified numbers in Japanese used e.g. mi = 3, na = 7, etc

There seems to be a cultural convention in Japanese that allows for "old" (simplified) versions of numbers to be used. An example of this would be the idol group 3776 which is known as "minanaro" and not "san-nana-nana-roku" as might be expected. This is similar to the old timekeeping system whereby simplified versions of zodiac animal names were used e.g. ね instead of ねずみ for rat, etc.

Is there a standardised list of simplified numbers, and when and how were they used? Is there a reason why the numbers are a mixture of simplified kunyomi and onyomi readings? Also, does the use of these numbers convey a certain sentiment e.g. does it sound deliberately archaic to use these numbers, or more sophisticated?

Thank you in advance for any input!

• Can't speak to the main answer, so commenting instead -- re: sounding archaic, I think that would depend on context. Consider slangy spelling 四六四九 for yoroshiku: definitely not archaic. 😄 Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 22:09

The following Wikipedia article should help:

Reading 7 as な is not exactly a 'reading'. It is just shortened for the resulting reading to make sense. In case you are not aware, 3776 is the height of Mt. Fuji, みななろ is the mnemonic to remember it (日本一にみななろう literally: Let us all become No.1 in Japan).

The wordplay is common in remembering years of historical events as described in the link, and also for telephone numbers. Taking an example from here 025 is read レッツゴー(let's go), where 0 is read れ (from れい), 2 as つ (from two=ツー), and 5 as ご.

To clarify:

• Is there a standardised list of old (simplified) numbers, and when and how were they used?

Please look at the Wikipedia, but there is nothing standardized - to some extent the 'reading' is arbitrary.

• Is there a reason why the numbers are a mixture of simplified kunyomi and onyomi readings?

It is read that way so that the reading makes sense as a phrase in Japanese.

• does the use of these old numbers convey a certain sentiment?

Although many 語呂合わせ has been around for some time and some of them are oldish, but as you can see in 025, these are not particularly associated with archaism. The intention is (mostly) to help people remember the number.

Related question:

As for the reading of numerals + counters, NHK発音アクセント新辞典 lists the reading for many combinations. You can see a sample in the right bottom of this pdf.

• For the OP, @Noel Whitemore -- Regarding the memorizability of strings of numbers, consider how the English-speaking world does this by use of the letters assigned to each number on a phone number-pad. There are multiple websites offering to convert numbers to words for this very purpose: google.com/search?q=phone+number+to+words+converter In Japanese, folks do something similar, only instead of using the number keypad letters, they use the various readings of each number - 2 = ni, fu, tsu, and so forth. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 22:56
• Thank you both of you for your detailed answers and comments. This is one aspect of the language that I'm unfamiliar with at the moment as I haven't encountered many examples of it. I think it's interesting that the Japanese would use mnemonics in that way as it is a lot more memorable. The only other English language example that I can think of offhand would be the US 1-800 numbers e.g. 1-800-DRINK-ME. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 23:07