Eggs and eyeballs

The excellent Chrontendo, episode 2, on Devil World:

Also, the crosses have another use: you can breathe fire while holding one. This turns enemies into what appear to be a fried egg — or maybe a fried eyeball — which you then eat. Yeah, I said the game was kind of odd.

I can explain this.

The inhabitants of Devil World tend to rock the one-big-eye look. You can see a couple in the bottom left and right corners of the image above. Meanwhile, in Japanese, fried eggs are called medama-yaki — "cooked eyeballs." (All right, fine: "fried eyeballs".) An eyeball-monster turning into a fried egg is not just a semi-surreal visual gag, but rather a pun that relies on the audience knowing the Japanese words for what they are seeing. Which, since the game was never released internationally, actually worked out fine.

I can also explain why Pac-Man is called Pac-Man instead of Puck-Man, even though it derives from pakupaku (mouth flapping open and closed), which, confusingly, is closer to "puck puck" than "pack pack" in standard US English: because someone at Namco had the foresight to realize that a P can easily become an F if a sufficiently creative vandal is around.

Also, while we're at it, let's get this on the record: Pac-Man has nothing at all to do with any "Japanese folk hero [named] 'Paku' who was known for his appetite," as Wikipedia claims. No such folk hero exists. The closest thing in Japanese mythology would be the "Baku," as in tapir, a dream-eating monster from the mainland. So why not just edit Wikipedia? Because they seem to have a citation for this Paku thing, I have no citation for my position (Japanese folklorists generally preferring to catalogue beliefs and practices that do exist), and I don't feel like arguing with Wikipedia editors about Pac-Man.

One more thing: The title of Clu clu land is definitely about the "spinning" meaning of kurukuru, and nothing at all to do with the brain disease Kuru.

Popularity factor: 12

Leonardo Boiko:

The “citation” apparently is for gamespy.com. Blargh. If that’s a reliable source, your blog is is frigging Enciclopædia Britannica.

language hat:

Yeah, that's a worthless source. Someone should bring the issue up on the talk page at least, but it ain't gonna be me. I've been through too many annoying Wikisquabbles over issues closer to my heart. (But last time I left an acerbic note on some idiot's page complaining that he'd reverted the changes I'd worked so hard on adding to an article, said idiot reverted their own reversion without a whimper! WIN!)


I'm also disappointed that you didn't cite Scott Pilgrim for his Pac-Man line.


Huh, I just googled that -- was that in the comics too? I don't remember it at all. (I haven't seen the movie yet since I'm too old to torrent things.)

Re the Wikipedia thing, yeah, maybe an editor would see reason, maybe not, but from past experience I don't like my chances. Better to be an alternate source and hope to be googlable.


Wikipedia is definitely too far up it's own ass nowadays for a normal person to contribute. If you want to add a new page, it's non-notable. If you want to edit an existing age, there's an editor who polices the page to keep useful changes out (but doesn't bother to revert the spam and general deterioration of the page structure).

There's some lesson to be learned from Wikipedia about the power (huge, free encyclopedia!) and limits (all the pages are half-finished at best and resist improvement) of democracy, but I don't care go learn them.


Care "to" learn.


I'm a Wikipedia administrator, but I don't really know what to do about it these days -- it successfully provides many complete, encyclopedia-quality articles (example), but I feel like the unfinished, uncited articles need to have warnings inline to remind people not to trust them. Nobody's going to try to finish them; it's a waste of time. We rather need to work on an academic Web encyclopedia like Swarthyface is doing.

language hat:

Wikipedia is definitely too far up it's own ass nowadays for a normal person to contribute. If you want to add a new page, it's non-notable. If you want to edit an existing age, there's an editor who polices the page to keep useful changes out (but doesn't bother to revert the spam and general deterioration of the page structure).

This is simply not true, and I wish people wouldn't keep saying it, because it adds to the problem by encouraging "normal people" to stay away. I have edited hundreds of articles, often substantially, and created scores of articles, and I have very rarely run into the kind of thing you describe. When it does happen, of course it's infuriating, but this kind of wild overstatement does not help. Wikipedia is a superb resource with some glaring problems, like pretty much everything else. The perfect is the enemy of the good.


As for why its Pack not Puck, maybe the story about the Namaco employee seeing the danger is true but that seems just as made up as the mythological Paku.

For one thing Japanese videogame titles aren't transliterated so that foreign audiences can pronounce them correctly- they are usually left to be pronounced however the local populace will (i.e. its not spelled pokaymohn).

Also the English pronunciation of "puck" is not exactly the same as the Japanese "paku". Why misspell something only to induce yet another incorrect pronunciation?

Finally puck is already a noun in English and from a marketing perspective it might be confusing why the game has nothing to do with hockey.


Gavin, you have a good point that I fail to cite a source for the "Puck" thing. The thing is, though, it definitely was originally "Puckman", and got changed to "Pac-Man" later, coinciding with the US release. Check out this image of two cabinets:


The one on the right is the original Japanese cabinet, predating the "Pac-Man" version which was introduced later and replaced it entirely.

So it's really not a question of "Why would they even use 'Puck'?" but rather "Why did they change 'Puck' to 'Pac'?" (This isn't sufficiently clear in my post, I concede.)

This does still leave your third argument, though. And I will grant you, in the absence of evidence either way, some US chief saying "Ditch this 'puck' thing, the kids will think it's a hockey game" doesn't seem any less likely than "Ditch this 'puck' thing, the kids will change the 'p' to an 'f'."


Probably it's just from the movie, although I'm not as familiar with the comics.

At least on the English -> Japanese loan side, the Japanese "a" seems to be used for American English schwa sounds, since there's little to no lip rounding. They may have gone to that sound on the J->E side, since the normal AmE pronunciation of "a" in words like "pack" or "Pakistan" is much farther forward.

Indeed, a quick look at Jeffrey's J/E Dictionary gives "pakku" as the Japanese equivalent of the English "puck."

So I think I'm with Matt on the "Why did they change 'puck' to 'pac'?" ... And since the term is usually used (in my AmE experience) when discussing hockey, Shakespeare, or the hockey-puck-shaped urinal cakes, there would seem to be all sorts of reasons to change.


I don't know about you, but I can find one citation from a Japanese language expert about Paku not being a real Japanese folk hero. Right up there ^

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