I am currently going over a translated children's picture book, お掃除を覚えたがらないリスのゲルランゲ; it seemed to have gotten popular in Japanese children's literature, but not anywhere else; I can not find the original French title or even if it was translated into English.

Regardless, I am focusing on a particular play of words; in the introduction, 11 squirrels are said to live with their grandmother in a beech tree. They do a lot of children's games in the forest:


My focus is on "リスとび"; なわとび is jump-rope, and I found 二人とび online, which refers to using one jump-rope for two people. However, what could "リス" be substituting for? I am trying to think what squirrels in a forest would use to jump-rope with. My thinking is coming from the fact that there is a specific reason they did not just opt for "なわとび," thinking there is some children's game I am not aware of.

I could be overthinking it, but does anyone have any ideas?

EDIT: Noting a comment, I could be overthinking things. Here is the illustration on the page for reference: enter image description here

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    リス = "squirrel". とび = "jumping". リスとび = "squirrel jumping". As squirrels do. 😄 Commented Mar 26 at 21:27
  • Since searching for it does not give any result, it should be an imaginary play. There are several -とび like ゴムとび.
    – sundowner
    Commented Mar 26 at 21:55
  • I think this is the same sort of thing as e.g. Calvin and Hobbes playing "Calvinball". Commented Mar 26 at 21:59
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    I guess it's for 馬跳び. It seems the word for leapfrog also has a mammal (mouton) in it in French. Where I grew up, 蛙飛び refer to a different thing.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 26 at 23:34
  • 1
    @aguijonazo The 蛙跳び I knew (webpage where I took the image from) also had another meaning, but according to dictionary.goo, they're synonyms. Commented Mar 27 at 4:11

3 Answers 3


Note that this is a guess without evidence

The de facto standard for leapfrog in Japanese are 蛙跳び (frog) or 馬跳び (horse). Since we're dealing with squirrels here the author simply used リス.

EDIT Added strike-thru because apparently 馬跳び is the standard over 蛙跳び. I initially thought 蛙跳び was the widely used one over 馬跳び.

The drawing shows the squirrels lined up in a formation which resembles leapfrog, but it could be a coincidence.


Assuming without evidence again this page maintaining integrity from original, your answer to "What does リスとび refer to in this children's book?" with the given context from a Japanese perspective may be answered in this forum, but to get to the bottom of this you might want to consult french.stackexchange.com. The drawing in that page looks like leapfrog to me tho.

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    Honestly? This makes the most sense, and seems the easiest to substitute; If the concept can include a frog AND a horse, why not a squirrel or even 象跳び? I will let this sit a bit to what others have to say.
    – BigRigz
    Commented Mar 26 at 22:32
  • to see* (more stuff to reach character count)
    – BigRigz
    Commented Mar 26 at 22:39
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    And saute-écureuil looks like a substitute for saute-mouton. > Ils jouaient du matin au soir parmi les branches ensoleillées à cache-cache, à l’écureuil perché, à saute-écureuil, ou bien ils dansaient des rondes dans la clairière. > @BigRigz
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 27 at 23:49
  • Chat perché is charged to écureuil perché.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 27 at 23:54
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    Okay, if "saute-mouton ▶ saute-écureuil" is the original wordplay in the French version, then "馬とび ▶ リスとび" was indeed intended to be its Japanese counterpart. But I must say, it was impossible at least for me to notice this parody just by looking at リスとび alone. By the way, 蛙とび is a rare phrase in Japanese, and I also imagine this when I hear it.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 28 at 2:45

Have you ever watched squirrels in trees? They hide from each other and then pounce. They chase each other maddeningly quickly in circles around the tree or even up and down the tree in seeming defiance of gravity. They jump from branch to branch and tree to tree. Even the picture shows two squirrels jumping through the air.

The author leads with two common childhood games かくれんぼ (hide-and-seek) and おにごっこ (tag). Perhaps, the author means リスとび as a cute play on the phrase 蛙とび. These are summarized at the end of the paragraph with the verb: あそぶ. ; these are just games squirrels play. The next paragraph he mentioned squirrels forming balls and dancing. I think it's better not to think about this too deeply; it's just very playful imagery for the life of squirrels.

As mentioned in the comments, what is Calvinball? Is it a form of dodge or baseball or some other kind of "ball" oriented game? It's just a cute name for a game that Calvin and Hobbes engage in with indefinite rules that always seem to change.

Any child who's observed squirrels will know how much squirrels like to jump. I think it's only natural to think of this as some kind of game that squirrels like to engage in, why not then just call it "squirreling around" or リスとび.

  • きっとEllettさんのところでは野生のリスがみれるのね!🐿いいなああ~~みたいみたいみたい (≧∇≦)
    – chocolate
    Commented Mar 27 at 2:05
  • 毎日毎日こもっているし、そういう…リスの特徴を決して見ないけど。私にとって、食べたり、埋めたりする動物で、跳ぶことがちょっと、と思った。
    – BigRigz
    Commented Mar 27 at 2:11

You can't tell the nature of リス跳び.

Just as English has phrases such as "bear crawl", "crab walk" and "duck walk", Japanese has phrases like ウサギ跳び ("rabbit hop"), ウマ跳び ("horse leap"), カニ歩き ("crab walk"), エビ反り ("shrimp bend"), タコ殴り ("octopus punch"), タヌキ寝入り ("racoon dog doze") and so on. Generally, it's hard to predict what kind of motion they actually refer to at first sight. Today, I learned that "crab walk" in English and カニ歩き in Japanese refer to completely different things! Still, it's easy to playfully create a new phrase following this pattern, and リス跳び ("squirrel hop") is one such example. Here, リス is not a substitute for anything.

It's fairly challenging to imagine what kind of action リス跳び could be specifically. It may or may not be similar to ウサギ跳び, ウマ跳び or any other existing X跳び words. It's impossible for me to accurately predict the nature of リス跳び from this text alone, and it will remain so even after becoming knowledgeable about squirrels. I even feel the author (or the translator) might have used this phrase without deciding exactly what it entails. That is, this new phrase may have been chosen deliberately to perplex the readers and stimulate their imagination. All I can say is that it almost certainly doesn't require a rope.

  • Crab walk isn’t even necessarily the same thing in one language, it seems. It’s at least two different things in English: ‘walking’ on your hands and feet (feet front, hands back, like this video); and quick scuttling sideways, chassé-like moves while upright. Video-searching カニ歩き shows instances of the latter, like this video, but also an entirely different thing (which also has a name in English, but I can’t remember what it’s called!). Commented Mar 27 at 11:50
  • @JanusBahsJacquet カニ歩き in Japanese refers to walking sideways, so the last two links seem two variants of カニ歩き to me.
    – naruto
    Commented Mar 28 at 2:38
  • The problem with this is that this book is meant to be read to children or read by children; it would not make sense to offer an abstract image like this, since this book is not poetic and rather straight-forward for the native Japanese.
    – BigRigz
    Commented Apr 3 at 13:48
  • @BigRigz Well, at least two adult native speakers (sundowner and me) saw no direct connection between リス跳び and 馬跳び, and thought it could be just an abstract or imaginary play. Dungarian's opinion seemed nothing more than a random guess before they actually show me the original French text. Even if the rest of the book is easy, I still believe this wordplay is poor. I don't know if French children can instantly grasp the joke in "saute-écureuil", but I would say very few Japanese children will understand リス跳び as the translator intended.
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 4 at 2:38
  • ...I suppose it gets confusing, then; as a native English speaker, it made perfect sense, as word substitution like that is a common play on words in English. Are you saying word substitution like this is not done in Japanese as well? To me, I guess context matters; because リス跳び is juxtaposed with tag and hide-and-seek, I knew it had to be some type of children's game that switched out one of the words. Is this figurative cue not obvious in Japanese? If that is the case, then...I guess it is a bad translation.
    – BigRigz
    Commented Apr 4 at 18:13

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