One man’s diamond is another man’s paving tile…

In the United States and England, the four suits in playing cards are ‘diamonds’, ‘hearts’, ‘clubs’ and ‘spades’. According to an entry on Adam Jacot de Boinod’s blog, however, other languages interpret these symbols differently.

The French for clubs, for example, is “trèfles”, meaning ‘clover’ (which makes more sense to me than ‘clubs’). In Italian, spades are known as “picche”, or pikes. In Malay, clubs are given the name “kelawar”, which means (of all things) ‘cave bat’.

A reader adds the following Cantonese equivalents, which I found interesting:

  • Hearts: hong sum (紅心 or red heart)
  • Diamonds: gaai dzuen (階磚 or paving tiles)
  • Clubs: mooi fa (梅花 or plum blossoms)
  • Spades: kwai sin (葵扇 or a palm leaf fan)

Posted by | Comments (2)  | December 19, 2005
Category: General


2 Responses to “One man’s diamond is another man’s paving tile…”

  1. Andrea Anko Says:

    For what it’s worth, there is also the beleif that the playing card suits were derived from the 4 suits of the tarot, which is supposed to be much older.
    Evidence suggests it originated in northern Italy in the mid 15th century.

    Hearts were cups, and correspond the the element of water which relates to emotions.

    Diamonds were pentacles and correspond to the element of earth (hence the paving tiles?) which relates to resources–i.e. money.

    Clubs were wands or staves and correspond to the element of fire which relates to action, movement, creativity.

    Spades were swords and correspond to the element of air wich relates to mental activity (words and thoughts)

    Just thought some of your readers would find that interesting!

  2. Suzanne Delaney Says:

    That is very interesting about the playing cards.
    I am enjoying this feature about words.
    Thanks for sharing.