count out ninety-nine kisses

Hi,everyone.
Today, in the novel Bone, written by the Chinese American writer Fae Mynne Ng, I read the following paragraph:

Ona was a counter. She counted the one hundred and forty times our pet rooster crowed in his short life; she tried to keep count of the number of culottes Mah sewed one summer. She counted off the days till Leon(Ona's father) was coming home, and then she stood at the mouth of the alley, counting the cabs that went by. Every night that Leon was gone, she'd count out ninety-nine kisses to keep him safe, to bring him back.

I've got this question about the underlined part of the paragraph:
What does "count out ninety-nine kisses" mean? Is this an idiom?

Thanks.
Richard
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    She kissed Leon in her imagination, or sent him kisses, ninety-nine times every night that he was gone. Ona must have loved her father dearly. :)
     

    Topsie

    Senior Member
    English-UK
    I don't think it's an idiom - at least I've never heard it before! Perhaps it's a Chinese superstition?
    It just means that she "kisses" (or makes kissing noises) and counts each one until she reaches 99!
     

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    I have been told that odd numbers are considered lucky in China, and other Asian countries. Indeed, in my area there are many restaurants and markets that are owned by Asians that have "99" in their name, i.e Pho 99, Farmer's 99, Market 99.
     
    Thank you all.
    It was a Chinese scholar's Chinese translation of the sentence that got me confused. She translates it as "Every night when Leon went out, Ona would really kiss Leon ninety-nine times to keep him safe, to bring him back." After reading your explanations, I know that hers is a mistranslation.
    Thanks again.
    Richard
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    We have 99 Ranch Markets in Texas now, too.
    In some Chinese numerology, 9 is "long in time" so 99 is doubly "long in time" which can mean "eternal".
     
    We have 99 Ranch Markets in Texas now, too.
    In some Chinese numerology, 9 is "long in time" so 99 is doubly "long in time" which can mean "eternal".
    Thanks.
    You are right about the Chinese connotation of the number 9. The number of 9 in Chinese has the same pronunciation as the character "久",which means what you've said. I concentrated too much on the literal meaning of the English sentences and did not go to that depth in deciphering their hidden meaning as you did. Now I know clearly that Ona would kiss her father ninety-nine times in her imagination to wish him safety and longevity. By the way, unfortunately, in the novel, perhaps due to her docility and too heavy psychological dependence on her parents, Ona jumps off a highrise after her conflict with her parents over her boyfriend, whose father cheated Ona's father Leon in a laundry project and landed Leon in bankruptcy.
     
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