Respecting rats at New Year's

Peculiar entry about mice/rats (nezumi) from the Butsurui shōko:

In the Kansai region, they call them yome [night-eyes/wives; see below] or yome-ga-kimi [sir night-eyes/lady wife]. In Kōzuke, they call them yoru-no-mono [nightlings] or yome or ofuku [lucklings] or musume [daughters]. In the Eastern provinces, too, there are many places where people say yome. In Ōmi, they only call them yome at the New Year.

Kikaku wrote a hokku that goes: "At midnight/ rather pleased/ yome-ga-kimi." Kyorai of Sagano said, "I guess from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day, mice are called yome-ga-kimi or something. I don't know the details." [SHIDA] Yaba said, "Yome-ga-kimi is how you say 'mouse' in spring. Here's how I think it went down: around the New Year, there are all sorts of lucky words, but words related to sleeping and waking up (ne-oki) are taboo. So, [instead of saying 'sleep' (ineru) or 'wake up' (okiru),] people say ine-tsumu [pile the rice] or ine-aguru [raise the rice], [using ine (rice) as a replacement for ine (sleep)]; there are lots of words like this. Now Nezumi sounds kind of like the word for "sleep", so people say yome-ga-kimi instead, probably."

But 'spring' means months one through three, not just New Year's, so what's up with that? There is more detail; hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.

The most likely explanation for the yome word is that it is from 夜目, literally "night eyes", but even if this was the root, by the Edo period everyone seemed to think it was yome as in "wife" (嫁), and you'd better believe they punned the hell out of that one.

The "lucklings" stuff is straight-up groveling, I assume. In a similar vein, in Okinawa, they call rats 'wenchu, equivalent to Japanese ue no hito. It literally means "superior" in the hierarchical sense. I suppose all of this stems from rural communities in particular; if my livelihood was riding on a barn full of dry goods, I'd probably suck up to mice too.

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