1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    How to count out ninety-nine kisses?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Feb 11, 2011.

    Hi,everyone.

    Today, in the novel Bone, written by the Chinese American writer Fae Mynne Ng, I read the following paragraph:

    Ona was a counter. She counted the one hundred and forty times our pet rooster crowed in his short life; she tried to keep count of the number of culottes Mah sewed one summer. She counted off the days till Leon(Ona's father) was coming home, and then she stood at the mouth of the alley, counting the cabs that went by. Every night that Leon was gone, she'd count out ninety-nine kisses to keep him safe, to bring him back.

    I've got two questions about the underlined part of the paragraph:

    1. Does "Every night that Leon was gone" mean "Every night when Leon was not at home"?

    2. What does "count out ninety-nine kisses" mean? Is this an idiom?

    Thanks.

    Richard
     
  2. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Ugh. Sounds like a book I don't want to read. Sounds like someone is literally kissing something, maybe the air, or a pillow, who the hell knows, 99 times each night as a part of some self-believed ritual that it will keep their loved one safe.

    Or I'm completely missing something.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ona was a counter.
    2. What does "count out ninety-nine kisses" mean? Is this an idiom?


    I've never heard of this being an idiom, but 'a counter' sounds like Ona is suffering from OCD--Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. One of the things OCDs do to keep in control and feel safe is count all the time--and if they don't count carefully they feel a disaster will happen. She probably kisses the air every night 99 times and feels compelled to do this, or something bad will happen to Leon or he won't return.

    1. Does "Every night that Leon was gone" mean "Every night when Leon was not at home"?
    Yes, I'd take it to mean that.
     
  4. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Adding to this, there are people that deeply in love with one another. I've known people in the military that kept track of the number of days they were away from their family while deployed overseas. It's not necessarily OCD. Sometimes it is just a way for a person to comfort themselves while alone. It may help pass the time.

    You could even consider it a personal ritual of sorts.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. yes, that's what it means...

    2. no, it's not an idiom... probably means she 'kisses' the air 99 times... or could be kissing his picture, but i think she'd say so, if that was the case...

    sounds all too silly to me, regardless...
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, I actually think its a lovely way to remember someone and keep them close - the kids and I blow kisses at wood trucks that belong to my husband's firm whilst he is at work. He only works 9-5 but until my middle one was just over one he worked from home, it was a way for the kids to adjust to Daddy being out the house and to keep him with us when he is gone.

    We still do it but now its a habit lol. And I am not even close to OCD except when it comes to deleting and rewriting stories until they are correct.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I interpret it as meaning that Leon went on a single specific journey, and that she's referring to every night of that journey, as she waited for him to come back.
     
  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you all for giving responses to my request for help. With your help I've now got a good understanding of the two sentences. Thanks again.
    Richard
     

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