Why is the pokemon called “Pikachu”?

According to most sources, it comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparking (“pikapika”, more commonly used for shiny and so-clean-they-shine things) and the sound a mouse makes in Japanese (“chu” or “chu chu”), because Pikachu is a mouse which gives off electricity. Googling “Meanings of pokemon names” brings up loads of complete lists of origins such as this one, many of the meanings being interestingly bizarre.

Why do the Japanese say “presentator”?

I’d always assumed what this Japanese site says, that this Japanese version of “presenter” was a made-in-Japan word made to sound like other words like “commentator”. I therefore told a Belgian student of mine to start worrying about picking up Janglish when the word came out of his mouth. However, it turns out he was right when he told me it is used there too. As there are few if any recent borrowings from Dutch into Japanese (though many in much earlier history), it still seems likely that this is just coincidence and it was actually created in Japan.

For much more on Janglish/ Japanglish/ Japanese English/ Japlish, there’s loads more on JapanExplained, or have just updated my full list and made a collection of my favourites on my English teaching blog:

TEFLtastic Janglish dictionary

Janglish which we should all start using

Why were the character and game called Donkey Kong?

I don’t think I’d wondered this since about 1987, but finally had the mystery solved anyway when it came up in a book I’m reading about the history of Nintendo computer games.

The Kong obviously comes from King Kong, which is a gorilla like the character, and apparently the English word donkey was chosen by the Japanese designer to mean “stubborn”, because the character never gives up.

Why are the Japanese so insensitive to swearing in other languages?

In just one week I’ve heard someone saying “Merde” in a NHK programme for primary school kids, seen “Jesus Christ!” coming out a speech bubble on Yamanote line train posters, and become aware of this incredibly profane T-shirt on local station Kanagawa TV. Is it just because there is very little concept on swearing in Japanese, or just the incredible ability of the Japanese to filter out most of what is going on around them, especially text in foreign languages?