Just one more post about sheep and goats...

Reading Konno Shinji 今野真二's new book, Sengoku no Nihongo 戦国の日本語 ("Sengoku Japanese"), I ran across the observation on pp138 that when goats appear in the 1593 Jesuit translation of Aesop's fables, they are called <yaguiǔ< (yagyū), a word which in contemporary Japanese is spelt 野牛 and covers a range of wild or at least free-ranging bovines: "wild ox", "bison", etc.

Yaguiǔno co to, vôcame no coto.

Yaguiǔno faua cusauo curaini noni izzuru toqi, codomoni iyvoqu yǒua: cono anano touo vchiyori yô togite iyo: nanito focayori yobi tataquto yǔtomo, va ga coyeto, mata conoyǒni tatacazuua, ſocotni firaqu nato yǔte deta. Vôcame fauano noni deta ſuqiuo nerǒte qite, fauano coyeuo nixete, ſono touo tatata. Yaguiǔno codomo vchicara qijte, coyeua fauano coyenaredomo, tono tataqiyǒua vôcame zoto yǔte chittomo aqenanda.


Coua voyano yqenni tçuqu naraba, axijcotoua ſucoximo arumai: fauano yqenuo qicazuua, tachimachi miuomo, inochiuomo vxinauǒzu.
Of the kid, and the wolf.

When a goat mother went out to the fields to eat grass, she first said to her kid: keep the door to this hole closed well from the inside: whoever calls and knocks from outside, if it is not my voice, and a knock like this, do not rashly open the door; so saying, she went out. A wolf, seeing his chance as the mother went out into the fields, came and knocked on the door, imitating the mother's voice. The kid heard him from inside, but although the voice was his mother's voice, he knew from the knock that it was the wolf, and so saying, did not open the door a bit.


Children who obey the warnings of their parents meet with not the slightest misfortune: if they do not listen to their mothers' warnings, they will quickly lose their bodies and their lives.

Theoretically this might represent a different version of this story, in which a buffalo calf huddles in a hole waiting for its mother to return, but elsewhere in the Jesuits' translation, the story of the Wolf and the Kid uses the same word, and a global change from goats to buffalo seems unlikely.

And indeed the Nippo Jisho backs this up:

Yaguiǔ. Nono vxi. Cabra, ou bode.
Yagyū. No no ushi. She-goat, or he-goat.

It does say no no ushi ("field ox"), but this is just an explanation of the kanji used to write the word: 野牛.

That said, it's curious that the only citations the Nihon Kokugo Daijiten has for this sense of yagyū are either Jesuit or Jesuit-derived (i.e. the later popularized version of Aesop's fables). I suppose it might have been a regionalism that Xavier & Co. unwittingly promoted to the standard, but if so, it was either a widespread one or a fairly easy spontaneous invention, because the NKD does mention that yagyū means "goat" in Gunma dialect halfway across the country.

Popularity factor: 2


Bonjour Matt,
je m'appelle Shachak, jeune homme a l'âge de 17 d'Israël qui est en train d'apprend le japonais - ma quatrième langue. Je voulais dire que ce blog est très inspirant et que ton histoire est très intéressante.
Bon courage avec ton apprentissage de la langue française :)
Peux-tu me dire que veut dire "LU d'R"?
Hello Matt,
I am shachak,young 17 years old from Israel who is learning japanese-my forth language.I wanted to say that this blog is inspiring and that your life story is very interesting.
Good luck learning the french language:)
Can you please tell me what does "LU d'R" mean?


Hello Shachak! Thanks, I'm glad you like the blog. This is the first time anyone has called my life story "interesting" too.

"LU d'R" is just pseudo-French that I used instead of "URL" in an attempt to prevent very simple spam bots from posting too many comments.

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