PKMN Japanese: Squirtle


Good day, it’s that time of the month week again for Pokemon Japanese, with your host, Silver! I know that I am somewhat infrequent with the articles, but I try to post as much as I can. Without further ado, this week is the Squirtle Evolution line.


007 Squirtle (ゼニガメ)
Romanised as Zenigame, it is commonly pronounced as Zen-Nee-Gah-Meh.
Broken down, the characters are Ze, Ni, Ga and Me. However two characters have their initial sound changed by “Ten-Ten” in the top right hand corner: these are Ze and Ga; their initial sounds being Se, (seh) and Ka, (kah) respectively.
Squirtle’s name means ‘Pond Turtle’. 銭亀(Zenigame) is an amalgamation of the words 銭(Zeni) meaning money and 亀(Kame) meaning turtle/tortoise. Interestingly enough, their round shells were used in place of money during the Edo Period, and so they were aptly called “Money Turtles”. 銭(Zeni) is also the Chinese word for money, pronounced qián.


008 Wartortle (カメール)
Romanised as Kameil, it is commonly pronounced as Kah-Meh-Lu.
Broken down, the characters are Ka, Me and Lu. The dash between Me and Lu shows an elongation of the previous sound; found in Charmeleon and Charizard’s names as well.
The first half of Wartortle’s name is obvious: 亀(Kame) meaning turtle/tortoise. There are two possibilities for how Wartortle’s name was formed:
1) A corruption of the word 噛める(Kameru) meaning to be able to bite. This would make sense due to Wartortle’s ability to learn ‘Bite’, but also due to its design having small yet sharp teeth.
2) Or a mixture of 亀(Kame) and テール(Teeru); either alluding to Wartortle’s large tail that has formed, or Tael, a Chinese unit of mass and currency used up until and during the Qing Dynasty.


As a note, both Squirtle and Wartortle have references to Chinese words relating to currency.


009 Blastoise (カメックス)
Romanised as Kamex, it is commonly pronounced as Kah-Meh-Kss.
Broken down, the characters are Ka, Me, Ku, Su. The little character between Me and Ku is a small Tsu, in this case it shows a small pause of the sound; almost like your shortening the sound as opposed to ‘ー’ elongating the sound. Ka and Me you should now be familiar with as they appear in the previous two evolutions, whereas Ku and and Su are new.
At first glance, Kamex looks like an amalgamation of the word 亀(Kame) meaning turtle/tortoise and マックス(Makkusu) meaning maximum. It could also be a corruption of Sycee (サイシー/サイックス/xìsī in Chinese); a currency consisting of gold and silver ingots used as currency in China up until the 20th Century.


That’s all for this week, folks. Tune in to next week where we come off the starters and go onto Caterpie and its evolution’s names! I look forward to comments and the discussion that follows. Any interesting trivia you know surrounding Pokemon names? Any language is welcome! Comment below!


Silver out~

  1. If it’s alright for me to critique the column a little, I’m not very interested in like, the breaking down of hiragana; people with rudimentary knowledge of japanese know how it works already, and if they don’t, it probably goes over their heads. (I fall kind of in between. More towards the latter. haha.) But I know ridding of it would make your posts that much shorter, so, a difficult crit to work around. :0 Of course my opinion won’t be shared by everyone so don’t feel obliged to act on it yet.
    The money allusion is a really cool thing that I wouldn’t have guessed. I was gonna say I thought turtles were still lucky in asia (and luck to asians, as does most things, = money) but then I realised I was thinking of frogs. Still though! Awesome trivia.

    I like that it’s sort of gonna be Caterpie Central around here (see what I did there). I can’t wait for articuno. Or the eeveelutions. xD

    1. Thank you for your critique. In response, I am trying to broaden my reach of the articles, whilst trying not to bore others; hence the inclusion of a breakdown for those that want to learn/looking for a little bit more help.

      As you pointed out about luck, in Japan, it is lucky to have a ‘holed’ coin (so 5 or 50 yen coin) tied to your belt with a piece of rope or string. A lot of students at the school i attended had them on belts or key chains, etc.

      In the early years of the Chinese Civilization, turtle and tortoise shells were heated over an open flame until they cracked. A soothsayer would then interpret the good or bad fortune that was predicted in those cracks. (see Oracle Bones).

      1. It’s not that it’s lucky to just have any holed coin, it must be a 5 yen coin because “5 yen” in Japanese is 五円 which has the same pronunciation as “good luck” apparently…even though the only way I know to say “good luck” in Japanese is 幸運 which has a similar but not an identical pronunciation.

        I think the association with turles and money is more direct: the shells used to be used as currency and squirtles shell looks like little coins. I think a reference to oracle bones is a stretch here.

  2. Some notes:
    Tael isn’t a Chinese word. It’s a corruption of the Malay ‘tahil’ (weight). It’s called 兩 ‘liang’ in Chinese, which also mean ‘two’ or ‘both’.

    Sycee isn’t read as サイックス. The word is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of 細絲, which is read as ‘sai-si’. If you want to keep the monetary theme, バックス ”bucks” would have been a more likely origin.

    Other than that, I do like how you related the evolutionary form to money.

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