Fly, cow, fly; cow, fly, cow


Literally: mosquito – horsefly – run – cow

Alternately: Something powerful being defeated by something weak; the great overthrown by the small. Literally, a cow being driven to run away by the onslaught of tiny biting flies.

Alternatively, this can refer to large events, especially terrible catastrophes, developing out of small matters; a destructive stampede being caused by mere mosquito-bites.

Notes: This phrase comes to us from the Garden of Stories (Chinese 說苑 = Shuo Yuan, Japanese 『説苑』 = Zeien), a two-millennia-old anthology.

Apparently this four-character compound can be read in sentence form as 蚊虻牛を走らす (bunbou ushi wo hashirasu), and is considered a contraction of the phrase 蚊虻牛を走らす (bunbou gyuuyou wo hashirasu), adding sheep to the list of large animals that the flies send running.

Man with ox by fields full of water

Fields full of standing water must be a natural defense against wild cattle, then

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.
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