[Ads-l] "hard as Chinese arithmetic": HDAS 1977, antedating

W Brewer brewerwa at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 18 00:17:55 EDT 2017

JL:  << Is Chinese arithmetic that much harder than the other kind? >>
WB:  I would guess the abacus is behind the expression. It's impossible for
the average American brain to follow the inscrutable Chinese
prestidigitation with an abacus.
     When I first came to Taiwan thirty year ago, it was common to see
businesses using the Chinese suànpán 算盤; all transactions were cash, no
electronics. Nowadays, semi-cash economy, electronic cash registers; no
abaci in school curricula, but rumors of nostalgic abacus games (in
hopeless, one-sided competition with electronic devices).

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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