In Happy Feet 2, I noticed that the penguins used the hitori, futari, ... counter words for themselves, rather than 羽.

In fiction involving talking animals where the humans are regarded as somewhat "outsider", what counter word do they use for humans? Do they still use hitori, futari, ..., or would they use something else such as 頭 (if a penguin were speaking) or 匹 (if a shark was)?

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    If I was the writer I would make penguins use... hmm, maybe 一頭,二頭...?
    – user1016
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 13:20
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    This is not a question about Japanese. The question should belong to (Science) Fictions website. In fiction, humans will be counted by whatever the author assumes. If the story equates penguins with humans, then humans will probably be counted by . If it is a story like *Planet of the apes", where the positions between some kind of an animal and humans are switched, then humans may be counted as , or whatever. Either way, there is no definite answer to this.
    – user458
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 14:52
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    I don't see why this is being voted to close. I think this is a fantastic question. After all, someone has to write the subtitles in Japanese, and therefore, must employ some type of logic or thought process as to how they will translate what these talking animals are saying. Great question!
    – istrasci
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 20:37
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    I agree, I think this is an honest question and relevant too. Obviously the author is the one who decides what counter to use, but I think Mr. Grimm was asking about tendencies, and what makes the most sense. English speakers could only take a shot in the dark, but Japanese speakers would have more of a feel on what "Japanese-animal-speak" would sound like. Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 21:02
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    @sawa: "Either way, there is no definite answer to this." - wouldn't that be grounds for closing half the questions on JL&U?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


Any movie will still use ひとり、ふたり, etc. Why? Because anything with human-like traits (including humans) will use ひとり、ふたり、etc. However, there is an exception, for example in a movie where humans are the "prey", 匹 will be used, because in those situations you are starting to treat humans like other animals (二匹捕まえたぞ!)

  • What counter word would be suitable if "human" is the predator (instead of the prey)?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 4:35
  • @Pacerier: ひとり、ふたり、etc. (at least when you say predator, I assuming you mean the act of hunting).
    – Jesse Good
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 4:39
  • Hey thanks for the reply =) Yes I was talking about "hunting", or "killing" to be exact.. In the case when the "animal" is a cockroach / beetle / ant / etc
    – Pacerier
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 4:49

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