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How to Count ‘One Mississippi’ Around the World

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How to Count ‘One Mississippi’ Around the World

 

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I know I’m not the only one who learned to count “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” as a kid. The idea, of course, is that when you insert those words between your numbers, the pace of your counting will roughly match the seconds on a clock. But Mississippi can’t be universal around the world, can it? A redditor asked how people count seconds in places other than the U.S., and the answers are fascinating.

Mississippi is used outside the U.S., though, possibly because the word has made it into enough TV shows that it sounds familiar. One Australian recalls that they learned to count in Mississippis long before learning that the word refers to a real-life place. A Hungarian said something similar, that it’s not uncommon to hear “egy Mississippi, két Mississippi…” in their country. And a Canadian notes that not only did they grow up counting in Mississippis, the locally-sourced alternative was not appreciated: “I do recall one kid used Mississauga, but we laughed at him.”

But the world is a big place, and there are other words used for counting slowly around the world—although several redditors said they were unfamiliar with the concept, so this isn’t universal. Here are some of the more fascinating answers:

One elephant…

Multisyllabic animals seem to be popular. A British redditor counts “one elephant…” and several Australians recalled learning “one cattle dog…” Other animals used around the English-speaking world include hippopotamus and alligator. In South Africa, you can count “een krokodil, twee krokodil” (“one crocodile, two crocodile”).

One case of beer…

In Denmark, you can count cases of beer. “en kasse øl, to kasser øl, tre kasser øl.”

Other grocery items made the list as well. “One banana, two banana” is another one in English-speaking countries, and “one potato, two potato” was mentioned as an option in Scotland. You can use potatoes in Afrikaans too: “een aartappel, twee aartappels…”

Twenty-one, twenty-two…

The German and Dutch words for “twenty-one” and “twenty-two” are four syllables each. Let’s use the German example here: instead of counting “one, two, three” quickly (eins, zwei, drei) you just start at 21, which is ein­und­zwanzig. The rhythm of the words takes care of the rest: EIN-und-swan-zig, DREI-und-zwan-zig

The concept exists in multiple languages. A Polish redditor “we say sto dwadzieścia jeden, sto dwadzieścia dwa … It means one hundred twenty one, one hundred twenty two.” And in English, we have “one thousand one, one thousand two.”

Tick tick one…

In India it can be “tick tick one, tick tick two.” Simple, gets the job done.

One motherfucker…

I’ve learned a lot reading this thread, but the word I plan to adopt after all this is motherfucker, suggested by a Canadian. These days, the only time I find myself counting seconds is when my coach gives me paused squats. (You squat down with the barbell, wait in agony for the prescribed amount of time, and then stand back up.) When I’ve cut the pause a bit too short, he’s told me things like “make sure you stay down there for two full Mississippis.” Well, not anymore. I’m going to be counting “one motherfucker, two motherfucker…”

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