Home > Life in Japan > Features
  print button email button

Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009

JAPAN LITE

No reason to have a cow over being bovine!


This column is to give thanks to the cows who have contributed so much to our lives. To those cows who have put their lives at steak for us humans as well as to those who have fodder to ruminate on and greener pastures to seek. Cows have made contributions to our society in many ways, but today I'd like to talk about their contributions to the English language.

Cows have given us many English phrases and vocabulary that we use in our everyday language. Although cows tend to moo in their own language, we have many borrowed words from cows. This is like gairaigo in Japanese, words imported from another language. Cows have contributed greatly to the English language. Besides, cows have four legs, something I've always wanted. Their horns are kind of nice too.

* * *

• To milk something for all it's worth — When you milk a cow, you milk it till the udder is dry. So, to take advantage of a good thing is to milk it for all it's worth. Comedians do this with jokes as companies do it with marketing phenomenon or products.

• Sacred cow — Cows are sacred in India, and no one can touch them. And don't ask why. Thus, anything that has remained untouchable for so long, especially in government, politics, or institutions, shouldn't be questioned or criticized.

• Bucolic — Despite containing the word "colic," this is a word originally used to describe shepherds and pastoral countryside, but now used to describe the ideal countryside life and almost always includes the image of cows dotting the landscape.

• Udder — I was very disappointed to learn that there is no word for udder in the Japanese language. In Japanese, a cow's udder is simply an oppai, or breast. Yet the udder is a very distinguishing feature of a heifer. Then again, maybe the human breast was named after the udder. Which came first, the breast or the udder?

• How to count cows — Cows are counted in heads. One hundred cows is 100 head. Not all on the same body, mind you. As a result, you'd say "A 100 head of cattle."

• The herd mentality — Cows, who gather in groups called herds, give us this term which means "to do as everyone else is doing." Cows tend to follow each other. The Japanese tend to resort to the herd mentality when it comes to fad diets.

• Bovine — She's so bovine! Like equine means "of a horse."

• The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. — International marriages often end up moving back and forth between the respective countries of each spouse as they try to find out which country is best for the family. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

• Till the cows come home — Foreigners often drink until the wee hours of the night, partying until the cows come home.

• Cow karaoke — Cows are all about us, but if you don't have your bovine antenna in place, you may not realize the wonderful "mooful" life. Take, for example . . .

• Mooooon River — the song is definitely sung with a long moooooon. Not Moon River. It's Mooooon River.



Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.