Pokemon GO: hunting new languages

There is no doubt that one the main news this week has been Pokemon GO, the augmented reality game that has flooded social media with all types of views and the streets in towns and cities with young and not so young people looking for the coveted creatures, who became tremendously popular in the 90s. But today we don’t want to find pokemons, but examine the impact of this phenomenon on language. Languages are never left out of social changes or revolutions, whatever their size, and this is something that fascinates us at Okodia .

Don't speak Pokemon yet? No need to go hunting, here are some hints. Tweet it!

If you go back to the 90s, when these creatures started to become popular, you’ll probably remember Squirtle (a portmanteau of squirt, turtle, and perhaps squirrel, due to this pokemon’s kind of tail) or Golduck (a portmanteau of gold and duck, although the fact that gold is believed to attract luck and increase psychic capabilities in Japan has much to do with the etymology of this word). However, these are the names they were given in English, as in Japanese Squirtle was Zenigame (a pond turtle) and in French Golduck was called Akwakwak (from aqua and quack). It cannot be denied that there is plenty of careful and creative work behind pokemons’ names. This could serve as proof for those who still doubt whether translation is also a creative process, don’t you think?

In the same way as some sagas, like The Lord of the Rings, had to invent a language for their fantastical world, the Pokemon revolution has also led to a need to talk about the Pokemon language or Pokemon ABC, which can be found on many forums, blogs, and online posts. This link leads to a rather extensive Pokemon dictionary, which includes words like shiny (a multicolour pokemon) and o spinner (a fast-turning pokemon). As can be seen, this language is mainly based on English, although it often uses acronyms. Thus, BW stands for Black and White, and NU to Never Used, to give a couple of examples. Many users have uploaded an amazing number of linguistic materials related to these popular creatures, like this video in which an Internet user explains the nature of the Pokemon ABC. Even, to capture some of these creatures, more specifically the Regis, messages inspired in the Braille alphabet were introduced in the game, as can be read in this article. These are examples of the fascinating versatility of language and how every great change leaves its trace in it. Or perhaps it is great phenomena that are based on the power of words?

In any case, languages will never cease to evolve and surprise us and force us to keep up to date. Even the Spanish RAE (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) has had to give its views on linguistic matters that users were asking about, such as the plural of pokemon, as can be seen in this link. Fundéu BBVA has also given its recommendations on how the words in the Pokemon universe should be written.

And so we say goodbye with one of the many linguistic memes about pokemons. It can’t be denied: language is everywhere!