I've heard that the number four attracts superstition because of its similarity with the word for death. For example, yon is used instead of shi in some circumstances, and sometimes the number 4, along with some other numbers is avoided.

Does the Roma-ji letter "C" attract any superstition, as it is usually pronounced "shi" (for example, CD is pronounced "shi dee")? Or are the pronunciations different?

  • 4
    I agree with Tsuyoshi Ito. Unlike English, replacing the long and short vowels of the same quality make difference in meaning. 'shi' and 'shii' are too different in Japanese to be considered the same. Besides that, the character 'C' has been introduced too recent to make it into a superstition.
    – user458
    Jul 31 '11 at 14:33
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    The thing is: it probably would not matter a bit if the pronunciation was perfectly identical... There are dozens of kanji/words that are pronounced "shi" and do not get hexed in daily life. In most cultures, numerology has a history of its own, where superstitions get given a preferential treatment. As @sawa points out, there's not much reason it would extend to a recent import like 'C'.
    – Dave
    Aug 1 '11 at 3:15
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    English speakers often forget that Japanese speakers are more sensitive to elongated vowel sounds. Unlike in Japanese, a longer vowel in English rarely changes the meaning of the word. Conversely, English speakers are more sensitive to subtle consonant shifts than Japanese. Aug 15 '16 at 18:41

As Dave stated, there is no widely shared superstition arising from the similarity in pronunciation between “C” and death (死).

Actually their readings are different. Four (四) and death (死) are both し. Letter C is シー, pronounced as しい.

四 is sometimes pronounced with a prolonged vowel (e.g. when counting numbers), but its reading is still し, not しい.


Yes, the pronunciation is roughly the same.

No, it doesn't.


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