133

Is there a language-related reason why the word has an accent on the "é"?

The Japanese for Pokémon is "ポケモン" (pokemon), so it's not to represent a long vowel.

191

The mark in question is an acute accent mark and is absolutely intended to mimic the native Japanese pronunciation, which itself is based on the English words "pocket monster".

Because of English orthography, there is considerable ambiguity surrounding the pronunciation of the character "e". (Compare the way you pronounce the "e" in "pocket" with the way you pronounce the "e" in "peel" to see this for yourself.)

However, in Japanese, the orthography and pronunciation of "e" sounds presents no ambiguity. To accurately transcribe the "e" sound found in the English word "pocket", only the character ケ, which is pronounced as /kɛ/, can be used.

Therefore, to indicate the correct pronunciation in orthographically-complex, ambiguous English, the acute accent was used. The reason for this decision was because although no native English words use the acute accent mark, most English speakers, and many Japanese speakers, are familiar with the way in which an acute accent mark modifies pronunciation, due to the large number of existing French loanwords in both English and Japanese--entrée/アントレ, café/カフェ, and élite/エリート are familiar examples of this pattern.

Source: I am a Japanese speaker and have worked at Nintendo as a translator.

164

It's probably to indicate that the "e" is pronounced, not silent. The word "sake" (in the meaning of the Japanese rice wine) is sometimes spelt saké for that reason.

  • 13
    Exactly - if you read the word for the first time without the accent, you would probably think it is pronounced rhyming to "joke nun" when in fact the Japanese pronunciation rhymes more with "okay ron" – Falco Jul 14 '16 at 15:07
  • 11
    @Falco I'm now picturing the Harry Potter cast singing "Okay Ron!!!!!!" the way the TV show said "Pokémon!!!!" Thank you. – Kyle Strand Jul 14 '16 at 15:44
  • But why an accent? Could they not have achieved that phonetic without one? Accents are not in the English language, or are they? – deanresin Jul 15 '16 at 6:10
  • 10
    @deanresin Accents are often used in English on foreign loan-words. – Ben Jul 15 '16 at 8:15
  • 1
    @Octopus "bokeh" is not a widely understood word in English (I have a T- shirt with the word on it and people ask me what it means every time I wear it). And, in any case, if "bokeh" were spelled "boke", people would pronounce it to rhyme with "choke". So the best you could get would be "pokehmon". – David Richerby Jul 16 '16 at 7:44
23

It's a stylistic choice that also emphasises that the "e" is pronounced. Think about how the word "Pokemon" looks devoid of two decades cultural osmosis. Given that "poke" is a slangy sexual term, the marketers did their due diligence and found a flashy looking way to keep the Japanese title.

  • 2
    Pokémon is 20 years old. Did that slang even exist then? – mbomb007 Jul 13 '16 at 15:08
  • 7
    @mbomb007 Slang sense "act of sexual intercourse" is attested from 1902. —Online Etymology Dictionary – MetaEd Jul 13 '16 at 15:13
  • 15
    I'd still say "citation needed" that the marketers even thought of it at all. – mbomb007 Jul 13 '16 at 15:14
  • 3
    This answer was automatically flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. A good answer is comprehensive and contains evidence showing why it is correct. Links to external resources are encouraged. Answers which consist of virtually nothing but an unsupported statement or a citation are not useful and may be subject to deletion – even correct answers. For an introduction to the site, take the Tour. For help writing a good answer, see How to Answer. – MetaEd Jul 13 '16 at 15:15
17

In French loanwords, é (e accent aigu) is often pronounced as [eɪ] or [e] (as in fiancé, exposé, etc), so therefore Pokémon would likely indicate to most English speakers that the word is pronounced "po-kay-mawn".

  • Please listen to the original japanese: youtube.com/watch?v=z4JeRKo3Rr4 (around 0:03 and 0:23, that advert is so old that it's not yet shorted to "pokemon", it's still full "poketto monstaa") and newer japanese youtube.com/watch?v=r8VP60cvCow (0:25) and in english: youtube.com/watch?v=nQRuirRjTbM (i.e. 7:23). Then compare them to how the é is pronounced in exposé both in british and american ways (i.e. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/expose_2) and .. no, that's not "ay". The 'e' in Pokemon is all the way the same as in "leg". – quetzalcoatl Jul 13 '16 at 22:04
  • 5
    'Po-kay-mawn' is inadequate for anyone without the COT-CAUGHT merger. – Aeon Akechi Jul 14 '16 at 1:52
  • 4
    This is the correct answer. @quetzalcoatl I doubt English speakers cared how it was pronounced in Japanese. But japanese has only five vowels and their mid-front vowel is closer to cardinal e than cardinal E. My theory is that the Japanese marketers (who probably took note of the spelling of blaze vs. blasé) of the franchise just didn't want English speakers to pronounce it poke-mon. – jlovegren Jul 14 '16 at 1:56
3

Surely the accent is there to indicate that the é isn't silent. If the accent wasn't there, Pokémon would be pronounced poke-mon, according to the rules of English. The accent is probably being phased out because 1) people were most likely leaving it out due to laziness and 2) it doesn't really matter because Pokémon is now an established brand and everyone knows how it's pronounced so the accent becomes unnecessary.

  • 1
    The accent isn't being 'phased out', at least not in anything official. I doubt the frequency of the unaccented form is any smaller or greater now in unofficial material than it was twenty years ago. – Aeon Akechi Jul 13 '16 at 23:02
  • 2
    Not exactly phased out, but the AP style folks are saying no accent. And put it in quotes. They are wrong and should feel bad. – Zach Lipton Jul 14 '16 at 3:21
  • 1
    @Zach: they're saying to put "Pokemon Go" in quotes, as the name of the game. That tweet doesn't say anything about whether to put "Pokemon" in quotes when it appears alone, but since they mention "Pokestop" without quoting it, I suspect they wouldn't quote "Pokemon" on its own. They probably should be ashamed of removing the accent, but I wonder if AP has some excuse about wanting to stick to ASCII where possible, to avoid upsetting the many primitive systems that its content feeds into. – Steve Jessop Jul 15 '16 at 8:07
  • @SteveJessop: The AP also probably wants to save time for its writers. It's funny that some people seem tor regard things like the AP style guides as indicating how one should write well, when a major motivation is to save time and money for newspapers. If writing things correctly would take extra work that nobody would really care too much about, it's better to consistently skip that extra work than have some writers invoke the effort and others not. – supercat Jul 15 '16 at 22:48
0

I would posit it has very little to do with pronunciation and quite a lot to do with trade mark and copy right laws.

Putting an accent on the 'e' magically transforms it from a "word" into a "uniquely identifiable brand name" which Nintendo can legally stop any one else from using. Haagen Das, Nescafe and many well known brands use non standard punctuation and spelling to make their brand name proprietary.

  • 2
    Do you have a source for that? – Steven M. Vascellaro Jun 8 '17 at 13:41
  • Probably the correct answer, and if this is the case, proof that the question is off-topic as addressing non-standard English. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 7 '17 at 9:13
  • This doesn't make sense. Trademarks can be anything, including ordinary words-- "Apple" is a trademark even though it's spelled perfectly normally. And "pokemon" is not a normal English word even if you spell it without an accent. – sumelic Jul 9 '17 at 0:22
-1

It indicates proper stress in pronunciation, just as an accent mark is intended to.

Natural pronunciation of words in English does not adapt well to Japanese loan words. The reason is stress patterns. For native English speakers, trochees, spondees, and dactyls are the most natural, especially with nouns. That said, we can safely assume that English speakers will emphasize the PO in POKEmon, but, as a foreign word with no established, entrenched pronunciation, the dactyllic stress pattern is often mistakenly applied - leading to a pronunciation something like POH-ka-mahn, for those who know the word to be three syllables, or POHK-mahn, for the more culturally challenged.

Japanese, unlike English, does not stress syllables. Rather, they have two tones, high and low, which serve an equivalent purpose. Tone variation can also be seen in English, for example, when we raise the pitch of our voices at the end of sentences to indicate questions (Japanese also do this). The tone pattern for Pokémon, in Japanese, is high-high-low-low (the final 'n' is a distinct syllable - unvoiced glottal stop). Illustratively, that could be written as POKEmon - the same result we get from forcing English speakers to accent the second syllable.

  • If there wasn't an accent on the "e", people would pronounce it as two syllables, not as any stress pattern of three syllables. – David Richerby Jul 15 '16 at 16:35
  • 1
    I've never heard anyone stress the second syllable of Pokemon, only the first. – Tenfour04 Jul 18 '16 at 15:28
  • @DavidRicherby The most prevalent incorrect pronunciation would presumably vary based on region and cultural sensitivities. That said, I believe that, while the two-syllable pronunciation (present even in this universe, where the e is accented) would increase slightly in popularity, the widespread exposure of the proper pronunciation through media, and the fact that pohk-mahn is so unlike anything resembling a word, would ultimately keep it in the minority. – Coty Saxman Jul 20 '16 at 7:15
  • @Tenfour04 I've heard both. POH-kay-mahn and POH-KAY-mahn. Based on the original Japanese, and the accent over the e, the second is more correct. – Coty Saxman Jul 20 '16 at 7:15

protected by user140086 Jul 14 '16 at 12:30

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.