Is this the year of the sheep or what?

Is this the year of the sheep or what?

It first started from BBC, then followed by CNN, then it goes viral around the world about the confusion: which exactly the year it is, goat or sheep?

The whole western media now seems to be all joking on the Chinese: “Come on, make up your mind, don’t confuse people any more”. This makes me very uncomfortable, and want to defend the Chinese here. This is actually not a joke on Chinese, but in fact it should be a joke on English. Why?

Because in Chinese its meaning, yang (羊), has never ever been vague. That’s the reason that there is an article claims that “the Chinese Year of the Yang is driving the English-language media crazy”. I.e., the media in China have found their Western counterpart’s struggle to identify the meaning of yang laughable, and those “so-called China experts” who were trying to resolve the issue are nothing but clowns.

The reason is that yang () is the collective name for goat (山) or sheep (绵). So to Chinese, asking whether the year yang is year of goat or sheep, is the same as if you tell someone that this is the year of goat and s/he comes back with a question, is it a year of domestic goat or wild goat? If you tell them its domestic goat, then they will continue to ask, is it year of does or rams? In fact, there are over 300 distinct breeds of goat, so the question can goes on forever. Thus, you can see, the best answer to the question, is the collective name for all of them, becase goat and sheep are closely related. Both of them are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. This question becomes a question because there is no such world in English, so if you ask me, I’d say, be it goat or sheep, or even ram or lamb, pick whatever you want. If you are really nitty picky, then I have to say let’s call it the year of yang, yes, “yang” exactly as it is, because it is much easily to spell and pronounce than “tsunami”. I.e., if we can use a word like “tsunami”, why can’t we use the word like “yang”?

Ok, now, if this is a Chinese year of , will there be still anyone asking whether it is a year of 汽 (car), or 公交 (bus), or 越野 (SUV), or 卡 (truck) or even 脚踏 (bicycle) or 马 (horse-cart)?



Goat from Wikipedia says:

The domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the family Bovidae and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat[1]

Female goats are referred to as “does” or “nannies”, intact males as “bucks”, “billies”, or “rams” and their offspring are “kids”.


Sheep from Wikipedia says:

Sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name “sheep” applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries… An adult female sheep is referred to as a ewe, an intact male as a ram or occasionally a tup,… and a younger sheep as a lamb.


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