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Why is a waiter called “店小二” (diàn xiǎo èr)?

You may be wondering why a waiter in a restaurant or inn is called "店小二" (diàn xiǎo èr; literal meaning: little two) when you are watching a Chinese costume drama. Read on and find the answer in this article. 

In the Yuan Dynasty, the lower-class people usually have no certain names. Only when one goes to private school will he have a formal name used in school. Or when he becomes a government official, he will have an official title. However, it is extremely hard for common people to go to private school or be an official. Most of them have few chances to achieve. Therefore, their names are usually given based on their seniority among brothers and sisters or the sum of parents' age. For example, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty is called "重八" (chóng bā; double eight), and his great-grandfather is "四九" (sì jiǔ; four nine), father "五四" (wǔ sì; five four), second brother "重六" (chóng liù; double six), and third brother "重七" (chóng qī; double seven).


Obviously, waiters in ancient times are the common people, so they must have a name containing a number. In an inn or restaurant, the boss is certainly the "店老大" (diàn lǎo dà), while the waiter is called "店小二". 


The article is translated and editted by Chinlingo. Please indicate the source for any use, reproduction or transfer. 



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