Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kotowaza: Spare the rod

This morning I was driving to work and the Hazards of Love came up on my iPod. Sometimes I forget how much I love the Decemberists, and that was a fantastic album. Anyway, the track that started playing had this one lyric: "Spare the rod and spoil the child, but I prefer the lash." That got me wondering, for some reason, if there's a corresponding saying in Japanese for our "spare the rod and spoil the child."

Although "spare the rod" is more explicitly evocative of corporal punishment, literally "if you don't beat your children they will be spoiled," these days it's more liberally understood to mean that undisciplined children become spoiled.

In Japanese, the closest expression (or 諺) that I was able to find is 「可愛い子には旅をさせよ」(かわいいこにはたびをさせよ」. Literally, something like "send your precious child on a journey." The reasoning is that if you coddle your child and keep him safe at home, he will become spoiled. Rather you must send him out into the cold and unfriendly world to learn to take care of himself, and thus he will become a better person.

One thing I love about Japanese (and I'm sure this is the case with other languages, as well) is that these kinds of similar yet distinct sayings and proverbs abound.


  1. Spare the rod is from the Old Testament.

  2. Ah yes,very nearly. Interesting!