Funny Stories Of Pokémon English Name Localizations

By Ishaan . September 28, 2012 . 12:30pm

Seth McMahill, Assistant Manager of Product Marketing at Nintendo, has been working exclusively on Pokémon games throughout his career at the company.


While he isn’t as involved with the localization aspect of the main Pokémon series any more, McMahill worked on the localization of the games from Ruby/Sapphire to Diamond/Pearl. That means he was also responsible for coming up with the English-language names for a lot of the Gen III and Gen IV Pokémon.


When we spoke with McMahill recently, we asked if he had any interesting or amusing stories to tell from his days localizing the older games. McMahill recalled a couple of instances for us.


“When you’re naming them, you’re together in a room with a counterpart from NCL (Nintendo Co. Ltd.),” McMahill shared. “We would basically have a thesaurus, a whiteboard on the wall, and would lock ourselves in for days on end, and the days would turn into months.”


He continued: “The craziest one is… my wife was about to have a baby. So I’m at home, going through baby name books. I’m at work, going through baby name books, along with thesauruses and dictionaries. And after  a while, stuff starts to sound weird. So, we had Piplup (Japanese name: Pocchama), and the description from Japan was: ‘the sound of a small pebble in the water’. That was what we had to come up with.”


McMahill recalls: “What we came up with was Piploop, which sounded like ‘poop’.”


“And we didn’t even think of that,” he says. “No one thought of it. And we were talking to another group, saying we’d finally figured it out, and they went: ‘Poop?’ They said it sounded like poop. And I said, ‘It does not sound like poop! You don’t know what you’re talking about; I’ve been doing this for years!'”


“And then, finally, after a good night’s rest, I thought: ‘That does sound like poop…’ So, we ended up with Piplup, which was the final name.”


McMahill then recalled a couple of other Pokémon that he had a tough time with. One of these was Lickilicky, the evolved form of Lickitung.


“There are some other ones, where you’re just stumped,” he recalls. “Like Lickilicky. A Pokémon with a giant tongue. Well, what do you name that, you know? All right, Lickilicky.”


The other one was what we assume to be Honchkrow. McMahill didn’t give us the name, but said: “There was another one that was almost ‘Doncrowleone’ but obviously we couldn’t do that, because of The Godfather.”


Honchkrow’s Japanese name is “Donkurasu” and if you look at his picture on the right, it’s easy to see why there’s a “Don” in his name.

Read more stories about & & & on Siliconera.

  • You should probably look at this vid as well:

    Mentions the names proposed for Gen I from the beta onwards.  I still have Tentacruel named Man O War from Gold onwards after learning about it a long while back.

  • Suicunesol

    I want to hear the story regarding “Bidoof”.

    • AuraGuyChris

      One day, there was this ugly guy. This ugly guy was so ugly that everybody died.

      And this is where the name Bidoof came from.

      • Krisi92

        …That didn’t help at all!

    • well, this is Bidoof’s name origin:

      “Bidoof is a combination of beaver and doofus (slang for a stupid person). It may also be derived from shadoof, a device used in some countries for drawing up water.”

      now, if he was planned to have a different name before that, I don’t know…

  • Did you know that Koffing and Weezing almost were named Ny and La, respectively? They’d represent New York’s and Los Angeles’s polluted air.

    • syrup16g

      NY isn’t that bad

      • Yeah, I think so too =] If they had kept those names, Ny and La would be the Pokemons with the shortest names!

  • Godman

    Doncrowleone is pretty badass, I’m going to give it to my Honchcrow as a nickname.

    • Krisi92

      Too bad it’s two letters longer than it could be.

      • Godman

        Damn that sucks :(

  • I don’t always reference Pokemon names, but when I do- I Lickilicky.

  • Solomon_Kano

    Doncrowleone would’ve been incredibly awesome. I’d have used it all the time.

    • Krisi92

      Too bad it’s two letters longer than the maximum letter count.

      • Solomon_Kano

        That sucks.

  • I just now got how they came up with “Honchkrow”…

  • komiko12

    Well poop does fit the japanese description.
    The sound of a small pebble in water is similar to poop falling to the toilet.

  • cofagrigus and conkeldurr

    • AuraGuyChris

      Fags stealing a sarchopagus.

      Oops, I mean, thieves stealing a sarchopagus.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    Piplup……Poop? Pokemon naming indeed is getting pro lol^_^

  • Snorlaxation

     You could try Doncroleon, Donkrolon..Donkro cro… nevermind.

    Damn. That’s one thing they really need to change.
    I’ve been wanting to name my Blastoise, Shellshocker since i saw the first movie in theaters ages ago.

    • not relevant, but i LOVE your display name.

      • Snorlaxation

        This is SOO late in replying, but i only just got notification of your message (for some odd reason).

        Thank You :)

  • PreyMantis

    This reminded me of the time when people were trying to figure out the names of the new starters in Black/White and came out with Pignite, Wotter, and Smugleaf. Good times… XD

    • Göran Isacson

      I still love Smugleaf so much more than what they actually went with. I get it could never actually be a thing, but man… I just love it so much.

      • PreyMantis

        Well, you can always change the name, so it’s not a biggie.

  • chalkcl

    I always ask to myself why do they need to change pokemon names. Is not like people start asking themselves what does insert-pokemon-name means. And just look at Pikachu, it has the same name in both western and japanese version.

    • Zeik56

      The game’s are aimed at kids, they obviously want names that are easy to pick up and understand. Pikachu translates easily enough to English speaking audiences, but a lot of them don’t. 

      I know I never would have latched onto “Zenigame” or “Hitokage” as much as “Squirtle” or “Charmander”.

  • Lol, Piploop would have been crude :P and I would prefer the name Honchkrow anyway :P 

  • Mister_Nep

    By looking at him I just assumed the name was Pimpcrow. All he is missing is a cane.

  • DonKarasu is such as badass name that, even after reading this, I still prefer it. Why not DonCrow?

    >There was another one that was almost ‘Doncrowleone’ but obviously we couldn’t do that

    That seriously would’ve been awesome.

  • Tht one hell of a PIMP/Gangsta hat tht Hunchkrow has. 
    Lol Pigloop. I will never look at Piglup at the same way again.

  • K Mantle

     Aren’t Pokemon names limited to 10 characters?

    Doncrowleone is awesome, but it’s 12 characters long.

    • Nanashrew

       simple! doncroleon, just like they did with feraligatr.

    •  That’s why they Can’t

  • Riseabovethesky

    He should have asked about the origin of the name Muk… yeah I know I’m juvenile but it never gets old :D

  • Tails the Foxhound

    I am in love with Cofagrigus as a name. I trained a Yamask just for it.

    •  I’ve seen the name being slightly popular. What does it reference to?

      • Tails the Foxhound

        A combination of coffin (or sarcophagus) and egregious. Basically “the exceptionally bad/evil coffin”.

  • These localization staff interviews are always really interesting. Keep ’em coming!

  • MrJechgo

    The secret has been revealed ^^

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos