If I have seen further it is because a dwarf was standing on my shoulders

Like so.

(Outa ko ni oshierarete asase wo wataru;
“Crossing shallows with guidance from the child you carry”)


Sometimes there are things you can learn from people who are younger and less experienced. “Out of the mouths of babes.” The image is of a small child who can’t ford a river on their own and must be carried on one’s back. Somewhat ironically, this need for aid places them in a better position than the adult to see the river-bed and tell the person carrying them where it’s safe to step.


We begin with the verb 負う (ou), “to carry (on one’s back),” in past tense, affixed to and modifying the noun 子 (ko), “child.” The directional particle に (ni) marks the child as the source of the verb 教える (oshieru), to teach, here in passive form with a conjunctive ending, making all of the above a single verb phrase that pairs with the following verb phrase: the noun 浅瀬 (asase), “ford,” “shallows,” marked by the particle を (wo) as the object of the verb 渡る (wataru), “to cross (over),” in sentence-final form.


Some uses shorten this phrase by ending with 教えられる – trading in the conjunctive ending for a normal sentence-final form.

The normal modern past tense of 負う would be 負った (otta). I can’t make heads or tails of why this case is different, although it may have something to do with the classical prenominal form of the verb.

This is the お entry of the Kyoto iroha karuta set.

Example sentence:


(Outa ko ni oshierarete asase wo wataru to iu koto mo aru de, Morita-san wa kouhai-tachi no iken wo shikkari kiku shuukan wo tsukeru you ni doryoku shita.”)

[“There are things you can learn from people younger than yourself, so Morita worked to develop a habit of always asking the opinions of the underclassmen ”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
This entry was posted in Japanese, Kotowaza and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s