CultureEssayEtymologyFoodIdiomJapanese traditionSlangUncorrected

Saba wo Yomu (Fudge the Number)

  • Saba wo Yomu


    Today, I’d like to talk about the Japanese word “saba wo yomu,” which means “to fudge the number/count to advantage.”

    This phrase is often used for one’s age, height, or weight.

    The literal meaning of “saba wo yomu” is “to count chub mackerel,” and there are several theories as the etymology.

    One is that we count chub mackerel quickly and roughly because they are caught in large numbers and are perishable.

    In addition, some says it comes from “魚市場読み (izana-yomi),” which means to count fish with a fast mouth at a fish market, and others say it’s because we treat two piece of sashimi (sliced row fish) of chub mackerel as one piece.

    By the way, to fudge the number/count to disadvantage is called “gyaku saba” (reverse chub mackerel).

    Original sentence