If you are Chinese, or a numerologist, perhaps you can explain why every time I call my favorite Chinese restaurant to order delivery, the elderly Chinese man on the other end always says in a raspy, smoke-riddled voice “Lucky Lucky Number!” each time I provide my cell phone number.

My phone number has four fours in it and the last four numbers are 4040 — those are the only things I can think of that might be “lucky” when I rattle off my digits, but I’m curious if there is something else at play I’m missing?
When the teenaged Chinese delivery guy comes over and I open the door, the first thing he always says is “Lucky Lucky Number!” three times in a row as he smiles at me and nods.

He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Chinese so we smile at each other as he repeats that phrase and I hand over my money and he bows and I bow and he leaves and I’m forever left wondering what else is going in the world that involves me in which I have no clue in understanding.


  1. lol, 4’s are considered unlucky in chinese culture.. why? they sound pretty close to the word for “death.” he’s probably being sarcastic with you when he tells you how lucky your number is… on the other hand, if you have a lot of 8’s in your phone number, then that is truly lucky as it sounds like the word for “fortune” and “wealth.” often, you will find that a lot of chinese families will specialize their license plates to have quite a few 8’s in them…

  2. That’s funny, suki! He always tells me he plans to play the lottery with my numbers.
    His sarcasm is completely lost on me! Isn’t the point of sarcasm to wound and insult someone with their knowledge? I have been taking his response at face value but now that I now my death number it really will be his unlucky number as I stop ordering from the sarcastic thumper!
    Here’s an interesting link:
    This is also describes the meaning all the numbers and the value of “four” may depend on what part of China you come from:

  3. At the Chinese restaurant I used to order from, 10 was apparently the magic number. The guy would always say, “Be tan minute.”
    It became the going joke at work when someone would order from there. Then I found a new, most excellent Chinese place, and that’s the only Chinese food I eat now. They also speak better English there. 😉

  4. Dave! — Go ahead and post it here! You don’t have to email me first.
    Carla — Now that’s an interesting story! Dialects can be hard to discern. One Chinese restaurant everyone dialed for delivery from in the East Village was “Jade Keychain” — at least that’s what I thought it was called for three years based on how they answered the phone — one day I stumbled upon the place on a walk in the neighborhood and I saw the name of the restaurant was actually “Jade Kitchen.” Our American ears betray us into hearing what we think we heard!

  5. I keep trying to write a pithy response, Dave, but I can’t find the joke.
    There’s something in 86 and something in my “chestnut” and your “broccoli” and how “chestnuts and broccoli” are #86 “the love cuddle of death” or something — but I can’t get the setup or the rhythm quite right.
    Please fix it for me!

  6. This was amusing. I’m always in fear of someone with an accent because I can’t understand a word they say and it’s so embarrassing. In fact it happened last night with an Indian guy who came to buy my dresser so I just let Erik take care of it.
    Oh and it feels that often there are things that involve me in this world I don’t understand 😀

  7. I’m still a little burned that my Chinese friend was mocking me with my “Lucky, Lucky Number,” Robin! I always tipped them so well and I’m sure they were laughing at me behind my cell phone the entire time. I bet they’re still laughing!
    Accents are hard because what is hard for us to hear is usually the same experience the person listening to us is having, too. I saw a documentary about outsourcing American phone support to India and how they have to train their workers to “speak like an American.” It was hilarious! We do have a funny accent.
    When things are happening around me that I do not understand — it usually happens when I’m in the middle of a group of students — I just sit there and let it wash all over me instead of getting all riddled up over trying to give it meaning.

  8. I don’t blame you, I would be too.
    That’s funny and not really surprising. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve humiliated myself because of an accent. Actually I’ll tell one story to make you feel a little better.
    I met this guy from Wales at a Boston bar once (I was single then) and we hit it off. Since the club was so loud I just laughed at most of what he said since I had no idea what he was saying most of the time…I just let him buy me beers. So he gives me his number since he’s going to be in Boston the rest of the weekend. I call him up, with my friend next to me, and I couldn’t communicate with him. Nothing he said made any sense unless he repeated it like 4x. Finally after being so horrified of myself I just hung up on him. At least I know I will probably never see him again. So I avoid accents…Erik makes the calls into the Chinese restaurant usually.

  9. I have decided you are a living comic book, Robin. Everything you say is so funny! I’d like to just sit down and watch you interact with the world all day — it would be so entertaining!

  10. “living comic book” not sure if that is a compliment or an insult but I’ll take it anyway. You know…it really would be. I have what I call a “Jessica Simpson Moment” at least once a week.

  11. Yeah the chinese HATE the number four! My hubby to be has worked on a few Construction sites this last summer and fall. One of them was a hi rise condo unit being built by some chinese group. They’ve gone so far as the call the fourth floor the fifth and so on. They refuse to have a fourth floor! Apparently some of it comes from the fact that if they have the fourth floor called thus, bad things will happen to people on the crew. I don’t know how true this is, and I guess a large part of it is jusy susperstition, but thats the answer my hubby was given when he inquired about it too.

  12. Oh, my Dawn, what news! I had no idea the number 4 was so unlucky for the Chinese. I guess it is sort of like 13 for some Americans, eh? I know some high rise buildings that don’t label a floor 13 — they skip right to 14. Superstitions are so interesting — they have such strong behavioral consequences!

  13. I used to work with a girl who told us about a Chinese restaurant in her hometown called the Fu King Restaurant. Well, you can imagine the hilarity that ensued.
    “I want some Fu King sweet and sour chicken.”
    “Where’s the Fu King menu?”
    And so on and so on…
    My dad loves that story! 😀

  14. I love that story, too, Carla!
    I have been studying all my Chinese menus from all my favorite restaurants here in my drawer — AND THEY HAVE FOURS ALL OVER THEM — prices, menu numbers, etc.! Don’t you think if four meant death you would avoid it like forever on the menu? What a crock! Or should I say “wok” instead? :mrgreen:

  15. My wife is asian (she’s Filipina) and likes to analyze names for their numerical value. Adding up the number of letters in a name tells if a person is lucky or not, etc. She’s not really superstituous (she’s a medical professional), but she does it for fun. It’s a lot like the Chinese zodiac menus and seeing if you your parents and friends are compatable based on their birth year.
    You might want to add up the numbers in your phone number to see what the sum is. It might not be the individual fours that causes the Chinese man to say “Lucky Lucky Number.” The sum might be a lucky number of some sort once all of the figures are added up.

  16. Robin — I’m not touching that one, either!
    Chris — Finally a voice of reason! Where have you been all day? 🙂 I hope you are right about the numeric value as a whole being lucky instead of my four fours alone causing the “Lucky, Lucky Number” mocking chant.
    I have always treated them well and I find it hard to believe — just from a cross-cultural/language barrier POV — that sarcasm would play a role in what feels like a genuine expression of being beloved for my phone number!
    I’m telling you… and I am telling everyone else lurking about here… my phone number is sexy and charming!
    I am also telling you I get “OOhhs” and “AAhhs” when I give it out to people because it is so uniform and perfect and, frankly, thinking that I am known as “Death Man Who Eats Bean Curd and Broccoli” has hurt my feelings today for more than a moment!
    So here’s the deal… my area code adds up to 16; my prefix adds up to 14; the last four digits add up to 8 for a grand sum of: 38! At least one four appears in each of the three sections.
    Okay, then.
    What did I win?

  17. I told my wife about your phone number adding up to 38 and asked if it was good or not. She said, “He’s not Chinese, so it doesn’t mean anything.” I pressed her. She said the number would have been good if it had added up to 36 or 39. She said that numbers are good if they are divisible by 3.

  18. Some elderly chinese people usually mutter a “good” phrase three times when they encountered “bad” things, to balance out the negative force I guess…… like if they drop a bowl/glass and it breaks, they usually mutter “Everything Unharmed” (or something like that) three times.
    “4” and “Death” in chinese has a very similar pronunication. Since your phone number has four fours in it and the last four numbers are 4040, it’s like having “Death” six times. It’s a very unlucky number for chinese.
    I think the old man saying “Lucky Lucky Number!” three times is for his own sake, rather than to be sarcastic.

  19. Thanks for that insight, Patrick!
    Do you have any links to the “good phrase three times” we can read and explore? It sounds fascinating.

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  21. I called the local chinese eatery looking for a carry out supper. I plainly ordered One Mushroom Rice Stir Fry, and Four Seasons.
    I arrived, hungrily waiting my Four Seasons beef (stir fry for hubby) and was so disappointed to find only ONE entree in my order.
    The nice little Chinese lady say: I fix one mushroom stir fry rice for Seasons (she thought “Seasons” was my NAME!)

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