I was in the middle of a nice conversation on Facebook when this shirt popped up on my newsfeed. Yes, Obama is our 44th president. Yes, this hip and snazzy shirt was made available 44 days before election day. A shirt that says “OBAMA 44”? Totally makes sense. Except to people who speak Chinese and have a inkling of Chinese numeric-linguistic homonym sensibilities. Let me explain.
When you say the number 4 in Chinese, it sounds a lot like the word for “death”. So it’s sort of a Chinese habit and superstition to avoid the number 4, kind of like how Americans avoid the unlucky number 13. So, to translate, “OBAMA 44” means “OBAMA DIE DIE”.
Hey, maybe it’s a form of brilliant reverse psychology campaigning. People who hate Obama buy the shirt to express their opinions while unwittingly financially supporting the very person they’re cursing. Sure, why not.