How many fingers do you have?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Tchesko, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12
    < Topic: How many fingers do you have? >

    Hi folks,

    Well, the question is in the title... :D

    I ask this because of a sentence I found in the Spanish-English dictionary under "dedo":
    < Spanish removed. >
    In English, we have 10 toes, 8 fingers and 2 thumbs.

    While I was aware of the distinction in English between fingers and toes (whereas in other languages you might have 20 fingers, counting fingers, toes and thumbs together, like in Czech), I did not know that thumbs should be considered on its own :thumbsup::thumbsdown: and therefore, there should be 8 fingers only...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2015
  2. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    Never heard of thumbs not counting as fingers!
  3. Rach404

    Rach404 Member

    It depends, most of the time in English we say ten fingers, and ten toes...only if people want to get really specific do they say 8 fingers and 2 thumbs....
  4. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    It sounds like one of those annoying trivia questions that come up in pub quizzes and the like: you answer ten because it's only logical, and then some smartass question master tells you that, actually, in fact, officially thumbs don't count as fingers. Grrrr. :mad: As if anything's official in the English language. As if anyone has the right to legislate about a word that's been around since, hmmm, circa 950, according the OED. Power to the people, that's what I say!

    (The OED, incidentally, mentions that there are five on each hand according to a general definition, and four in a restricted sense. How diplomatic.)

    And I don't want to hear any more about it. It was a bad night. That free packet of pork scratchings was almost mine until that smarmy intellectual type at the next table came along and beat me by one point. But I don't want to talk about it, you hear?
  5. *Cowgirl*

    *Cowgirl* Senior Member

    USA English
    If you want to get really specific, you could say that we have 6 fingers, 2 thumbs, and 2 pinkies.:D
  6. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    I think its a "special case" scenario.

    You have 10 dishes, 6 plates and 4 bowls. The plates and bowls are still dishes even though there are more specific words which may be used to indentify them.

    We have 10 fingers, two or which also happen to be special fingers, called thumbs.

    I'm speaking from a usage stand point. Even though a dictionary may give specific meanings, in practice, in the US, people actually use the terms fingers and thumbs as per above.
  7. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    :eek: Hmmm, if asked that question I would have answered 8 - which probably just confirms my naturally pedantic nature. I would have agreed we have 10 digits though.
  8. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12
    Even more interesting... Wikipedia says:

    "A digit is:
    In anatomy, a finger or toe."

    Thus, we should have 20 digits, shouldn't we? :confused:
  9. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Yes definitely on the foot or hand - I was talking about those on the hand, sorry for the confusion:eek:
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Only unreconstructed pedants, the digitally challenged, and timpeac (who's a good guy really), will answer eight to "how many fingers have you". The rest of us will answer ten - unless involved in a pub quiz, in which case it will take each table the full allotted time to answer 37.
  11. Embonpoint Senior Member

    To me a thumb is a kind of finger. It is very common in AE to say "How many fingers am I holding up" and to have the person count the thumb! We commonly say we have ten fingers. On the other hand if I cut my thumb I would always say, "I cut my thumb," not I cut my finger.

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