A dangerous game when your name starts with “hundred”

I guess birds are illiterate?


Literally: hundred – tongue – compare – determine

Alternately: Arranging things so that others end up paying your costs for you. Especially at a restaurant, manipulating the bill in a way that divides your own expenses among your partners so that you don’t have to pay anything yourself. Similar to acting presidential, but through one’s own cleverness rather than through borrowing the brains of an army of unethical accountants.

Notes: The 百舌 is actually the bull-headed shrike, supposedly so-named for its frequent calls. 勘定 is the act of settling a bill.

This compound is said to be based on a story in which the shrike, after buying food together with a sandpiper and a dove, talks them into paying the whole bill – essentially by playing on their names. They had a bill (pun intended) of 15 mon. In Japanese sandpiper is 鴫 (shigi), which starts with the same sound as 七 (shichi), “seven,” while dove is 鳩 (hato), which starts with the same sound as 八 (hachi), “eight.” The sandpiper paid seven, the dove paid eight, and the shrike walked away without paying a single coin.

Additional trivia: There’s an ancient tomb complex in Osaka prefecture named 百舌鳥古墳群 (Mozu Kofungun); note that here the name mozu includes the character 鳥, “bird,” without any change in pronunciation.


I couldn’t find anything really illustrative of the compound itself, so here’s a photo of the male 百舌鳥; source in lower right.

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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