Saturday, 5 January 2013

dactylonomy: The art of numbering or counting by the fingers.

I think it's safe to say that at one point or another, any person with fingers has practiced dactylonomy at some point in their life.  In fact I think we use it more often then we think.  We use it when we're running through the list etched in our brains of how many people will be attending our holiday feast.  We use it when warning our children of an impending timeout.  We use it while trying to solve simple math problems.  And one of my personal favourites, perhaps I'm the only one, but in a world with billions of people it would be quite foolish to think so, we use it when trying to calculate how many hours have gone by, how many hours are left until our boring shift is over, or how many hours until we meet up with our friends for dinner and drinks.

But, I think one of the most wonderful, precious, adorable usages of dactylonomy is when a child is learning to count.  Watching them splay out their fingers, pointing to each darling digit as they crawl up the scale of numbers, occasionally pausing before resuming or even back tracking if need be.  They count and use those little fingers to proudly display their age, their sibling's age, their cat's age. I'm sure they would even show their parents age if they could.  Almost any question that requires a numerical answer allows those clever angels to actively display the use of dactylonomy, it's mesmerizing and ingenious all in one.   


  1. You are so eloquent when describing an art that will never die.