Funny Stories Of Pokémon English Name Localizations

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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.

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Image of Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.