a head of bamboo ones

Hudson

Senior Member
Japanese
"My hand was scattered: a mixing of winds and dragons, with a head of bamboo ones and a few copper tiles, several shy of a short straight." (The Foreigner, Francie Lin)

The protagonist-speaker is playing mahjong, and this is the tiles he got at the outset. By "with a head of bamboo ones", does he mean a pair of bamboo one tiles, or just any two bamboo tiles?
 
  • AVim

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    "My hand was scattered: a mixing of winds and dragons, with a head of bamboo ones and a few copper tiles, several shy of a short straight." (The Foreigner, Francie Lin)

    The protagonist-speaker is playing mahjong, and this is the tiles he got at the outset. By "with a head of bamboo ones", does he mean a pair of bamboo one tiles, or just any two bamboo tiles?
    I would understand "a head of bamboo ones" as "a hand/handful of bamboo ones", which might mean "some bamboo tiles"; but I couldn't see the meaning of two in this context.
     

    AVim

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I would understand "a head of bamboo ones" as "a hand/handful of bamboo ones", which might mean "some bamboo tiles"; but I couldn't see the meaning of two in this context.
    I just find I made a mistake. It seems that "head" (a pair of something) is a term in mahjong playing. In our place, we often call it "将", while in other districts people may say "将" (thanks to google, I found why the author call it 'a head' :)).

    Now, I admit that both of your interpretations are possible, and I would understand it as "a pair of bamboo tiles".

    There are three reasons:
    1) For the context, "a mixing of winds and dragons, with a head of bamboo ones and a few copper tiles, several shy of a short straight.", is just a general description of the tiles, you know, one's first glance at these tiles, before having acquired detailed information like values or numbers.

    2) If you follow the author's style, you'll find she prefers saying something like "nine of bamboo" or "eight bamboo", so I suppose she would use "one of bamboo" or "one bamboo" if she really meant it;

    3) We often refer to "one bamboo" as "bird" (幺鸡) or "one bamboo" (一条) but not "bamboo one", unless we intend to make a joke.

    So I think the "one" here in this context is an infinite pronoun, not a number.
     
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