Asian Lunar New Year

Most years Lunar New Year has one animal designated as its year. This year it’s not quite as certain. I’ve gone on some sites saying that it’s the Year of the Sheep. Other sites say that it’s the Year of the Goat. Then there’s today’s Google Doodle where, to me, the animal looks like a ram.

Apparently there’s a reason, according to this article in The New York Times.

“Few ordinary Chinese are troubled by the sheep-goat distinction,” Xinhua, China’s main state-run news agency, said in its report on the debate. “However, the ambiguity has whipped up discussion in the West.”

The reason is that the word for the eighth animal in the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle of creatures, yang in Mandarin, does not make the distinction found in English between goats and sheep and other members of the Caprinae subfamily. Without further qualifiers, yang might mean any such hoofed animal that eats grass and bleats. And so Chinese news outlets have butted heads for days on what to call this year in English, recruiting experts to pass judgment.

I think I’ll make things easier by just saying Happy Lunar New Year to everyone regardless of whether they are celebrating 2015 as the Year of the Sheep, the Year of the Goat, or the Year of the Ram.