From "Penis" to "Horse Salmon", Foreign Names Can Be Funny in Japanese

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You might think your name is normal in your family's native tongue. Maybe it is. But put it in a different language, and sometimes, all hell can break loose.

In Japanese, foreign words and names are written in a writing system called katakana. Unlike most Japanese names, which use kanji characters that have intrinsic meanings, the katakana names are phonetic sounds. It's often from this that unintended humor arises—even for the rich, famous, and powerful.


Foreign celebrities often have official spellings of their names in Japanese. Their names are changed if they have a strange or bad meaning in Japanese, but not always.

Here are a few foreigners with interesting sounding names in Japanese:


Ralph Bakshi

With credits like Fritz the Cat and the 1978 Lord of the Rings cartoon, Bakshi has had an impressive career as an animation director. His last name, "Bakshi", is "Bakushi" (バクシ) in Japanese, which can mean, "bomb victim" or even, "bondage master".


Fan Bingbing

Appearing in (the Chinese version of) Iron Man 3, her name is "Fan Binbin" (ファン・ビンビン). Unfortunately, "binbin" (ビンビン) in Japanese means "to be hard", like as in having-an-erection hard. (Photo: Getty)


Boutros Boutros-Ghali

In Japanese, the name of this former Secretary-General of the U.N. is "Gaari" (ガーリ), but it sounds like the Japanese word "gari" (ガリ), which refers to the "pickled ginger" served with sushi. Thus, people in Japan might think the "pickled ginger" part is more interesting than the Boutros Boutros bit.


Qusay Hussein

One of Saddam Hussein's sons. In Japanese, his name is actually written as "Kusai Fusein" (クサイ・フセイン), which means "Stinky Fraud"—with an added "n" ("fusei" can mean "injustice", "fraud", or "dishonest" as well as "correction" or "irregular", depending on the kanji character). You be trollin', Japan!


Sean Ochinko

The minor league baseball player's last name, Ochinko, means "penis" in Japan. Needles to say, photos of him in uniform are already a meme in Japan for obvious reasons. (Photo: mwlguide)


Uma Thurman

In Japanese, "uma" can mean "horse". That's probably why the actress's name in Japanese is actually "Yuma" (ユマ). Her last name, Thurman, is "Saaman" (サーマン), which does sound similar to "salmon" (サーモン). Above, you can see Japanese musician and Fatal Frame songstress Tsukiko Amano, who released an album that's a word play on the Hollywood star's name.


Of course, some Japanese name sound unintentionally funny in English, too. If you can read Japanese, there are more humorous names in the link below.

珍名・面白い名前・変な名前の有名人一覧 [いちらん屋]

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