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"It's a Secret to Everybody"
June 20, 2009 7:26 PM   Subscribe

"It's a secret to everybody" -- an unbelievably comprehensive blog post about the etymologies of the names of famous (and not-so-famous) video game characters.
posted by empath (26 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Woah. That is very comprehensive! I'm gonna need a good hour to soak this all in.

The Legend of Zelda games take their name from the game’s damsel in distress, which seems somewhat odd in that the persistently purloined princess didn’t play a significant role in the games until fairly recently.

This. When I was younger, I always used to get confused and think I was playing as Zelda.
posted by Askiba at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2009


I'm always (for some reason, given their popularity) amazed about how many video game blogs there are out there. This one is definitely one of the most thorough I've seen.

Good post.
posted by elder18 at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2009


I always thought Zelda was from Yiddish, and originally spelled Tselde, because of some I.B. Singer stories I owned as a kid. But I can't tell now because the google results throw up too many game results. I hope so, because I always thought it was wonderful that she had such a Yiddish name for no apparent reason.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is great! Also, I like the suggestion of a 'Wapeach' Anti-Peach character - although I think that territory was kind of covered in Partners In Time with the alien queen. But still. T'would be awesome.
posted by RokkitNite at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2009


This is interesting, and a fun read, but some of the explanations are pretty dubious. Wario and Waluigi especially: Japanese words and anagrams, etc. etc. when it's obviously just "Mario" with the "M" turned upside down, and "Waluigi" is even more obvious.

Also, now I've got that damn "Ashley" song from WarioWare Touched stuck in my head again. That's one of the most insidious earworms ever in a video game.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:35 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am blown away but also slightly disappointed that Boomer Kuwanger did not warrant a mention.
posted by oulipian at 8:37 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting article. Given his obvious depth of research, I'm surprised he doesn't mention that "yoshi" can also mean "adopted son" in Japanese (which I think is quite apt for the character).
posted by retronic at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2009


Dang, that was long.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:14 PM on June 20, 2009


"In the Japanese version, they’re Bud and Corona, and I can’t help but to suspect that the fact that the original set of names doubled as a slang term for marijuana and a brand of beer, respectively, persuaded the translators to switch out the female character’s name."


. . .
posted by @troy at 9:19 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is great -- though I did skim parts that weren't about games I'm not that familiar with, but even some of those were interesting.

In case you didn't get through it, let me link the link within it to the reason how the ghosts in Pac-Man are programmed to act and how it relates to the names. I can't say I've played Pac-Man yet to see how right it is, but I definitely will.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:20 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


In addition to being a Japanese first name — for humans, that is — Yoshi’s name also serves in Japanese as an interjection meaning “Okay!” or “All right!”

Heh, so in theory he could've been named 'Roger' in the English version and it would've worked out on both levels.
posted by jedicus at 9:40 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Freakin' WOW. Also, long. But, still, wow.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:43 PM on June 20, 2009


Countess Elena, is this what you're looking for?
posted by Araucaria at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2009


This. When I was younger, I always used to get confused and think I was playing as Zelda.

Sociologists refer to this as "Blondie Syndrome." Or at least they would, if they'd just answer my letters.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 11:01 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


They mention some of the Final Fantasy series in there a little, and I just wanted to mention that a lot of those games (especially the early ones) had way better names for things before the translators got ahold of them. For instance, in Final Fantasy 2's original English translation, the main character spends some time as a dark knight before going on to become a paladin, and when you're a dark knight your best armor and weapon is the black armor and the black sword. As I understand it, the Japanese versions are called the demon's armor and the deathbringer, which is approximately a million times cooler and more ominous (and makes the sword make a lot more sense when you realize it one-hit-kills living monsters randomly, although you hardly see any that aren't undead from the time you get it until you become a paladin and can't use it anymore.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:11 PM on June 20, 2009


FF2/4j was unique in its English version butchering. The game was virtually gutted for its NA release, into a version which is now referred to as "easymode."
posted by mek at 4:07 AM on June 21, 2009


I wanted to like this, being a huge fan of obsessive etymological research, but was disappointed. The very first section, on Zelda, contained an obvious error: "Some even claim that the Greek letter delta, which is essentially a triangle, is known to modern Greeks as dhelda and would be transcribed into Japanese katakana as zeruda, which is also how the character’s name could be rendered in katakana." No Greek has ever pronounced delta as "dhelda"; it's dhelta. So that's a stupid and easily refuted theory, but he doesn't take the trouble to find out, he just says "some say..." And that's his approach in general—the whole thing is a mass of competing speculations. These games are not relics of antiquity, they were created in recent memory, and it should not be impossible to determine what the real story is.
posted by languagehat at 6:46 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always thought Zelda was from Yiddish, and originally spelled Tselde, because of some I.B. Singer stories I owned as a kid. But I can't tell now because the google results throw up too many game results. I hope so, because I always thought it was wonderful that she had such a Yiddish name for no apparent reason.

Zelda actually entered the English language from two different directions: as a variant of "Tselde" from Yiddish, and a diminutive form of "Griselda" from Spanish. I love our freaky melting pot language.
posted by EarBucket at 7:32 AM on June 21, 2009


These games are not relics of antiquity, they were created in recent memory, and it should not be impossible to determine what the real story is.

That was also my thought throughout a lot of it. However, I still enjoyed it.

PS this was my first proper use of iPhone copy/paste, woo!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2009


I am willing to read anything that mentions Clawglip. Thanks for posting.
posted by sleevener at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2009


Talk about overthinking a plate of deku nuts. As languagehat notes, the whole thing is just competing speculations, but it's still an interesting conversation piece since he's collecting most of the gaming-history speculations in one place, hopefully encouraging further research and verification.

Also, I felt so vindicated when I followed the link to an article about how Final Fight and other early Capcom games were basically works of gay bear subculture art. For many years I have tirelessly provided MST3K bear-porn riffs while playing through arcade beat-em-offsups.
posted by jake at 10:56 AM on June 21, 2009


Hey! Did you know that "Sephiroth," the name of gothy, one-winged, oft-fixated-upon prettyboy bad guy in Final Fantasy VII, in Japan his name has an actual meaning? Yeah, uh-huh, and would you like to know what that meaning is? Okay, I'll tell you, here it is:

Sephiroth means THE THING THAT WILL GO ON TO RUIN VIDEOGAMES FOR EVERYONE EVER.
posted by JHarris at 4:20 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was shocked to hear the theory that "Bowser" came from the Sha-Na-Na singer, until I stepped out for a smoke and thought about it for a bit. I'd need to go back and check, but as far as I could remember, he was only known as King Koopa in the first Super Mario Bros., obviously absent from SMB2, and then only given the name Bowser in the third... where the koopalings had been named after notable rockers and Morton Downey Jr., for some reason (I'd never been sure where "Larry" came from.) Hell, I thought, there was even the rhino miniboss in Super Mario World with the name Reznor!

Of course, I come back in and he's gone into all of that already. Of course.

Great stuff, and highly fascinating.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:45 PM on June 21, 2009


Previously in this spot I made a post about a Japanese film an actor and another film he starred. Also some stuff about Dhalsim and Kundalini Yoga, Fire Breathing, and yoga flying/levitation. Then my laptop bugged out.
Anyway, I'm not retyping everything and it went something like this:
The Street Fighter > Sonny Chiba > Champion of Death/ Karater Bullfighter > Mas Oyama = Ryu.
Dhalsim blah blah blah.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:59 PM on June 21, 2009


Sephiroth means THE THING THAT WILL GO ON TO RUIN VIDEOGAMES FOR EVERYONE EVER.

Whoa, really? All this time I thought that's what Aerith stood for (Aeris for you uneducated gaijins).
posted by graventy at 11:50 AM on June 22, 2009


Aeris is just another version of a type that had already been in JRPGs for a while, the Quiet Healer. The only really different thing about her is that she gets the deep six, like, for good. That didn't tend to happen to girl characters before then... or since, really. In FF IV, despite many apparent deaths, the only character that really dies is crusty obsolete-word-user Tellah. In VI only Shadow dies, although that happens either halfway through or during the ending, depending on Something You Do.

Sephiroth, however, launched the whole anime-ish, overly feminine, fashionable bishounen fangirl fetish-object thing that served as a type for Square's character designers ever since. At least Cloud, who I also pretty much loathe, had Popeye-arms. H-gukgukgukgukguk!
posted by JHarris at 12:58 PM on June 23, 2009


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