dactylonomy


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dactylonomy

Rare. the practice of counting on the fingers.
See also: Fingers and Toes
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(106) [The poet] speaks euphemistically of his [Yusuf's] having been in the tightness of ninety in dactylonomy and becoming thirty in dactylonomy (fi diqi 'aqdi tis'ina fa-sara fi sa'ati 'aqdi thalathin).
(107) Dactylonomy (hisab al-'aqd) is finger-counting, or more precisely, "the art of expressing numbers by the position of the fingers." The number ninety is signified "by placing the tip of the forefinger on the base of the thumb," and thirty is signified "by putting together the tips of the thumb and the forefinger." (108) The rather tight and circular gesture made by the signification of number ninety is the source of its metaphoric sense as "anus" (ist), attested to in Abu Hilal al-'Askari's Jamharat al-amthal: wa-umm tis'in ...
A description and illuminating illustrations of numbers in dactylonomy, in addition to a short history of this art in East and West, are to be found in Georges Ifrah, The Universal History of Numbers from Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer, tr.