Saturday, April 16, 2011

Famicom History Part 2: Japanese Famicom Slang 101

Here we go, part 2 in my new little social history of the Famicom (part 1 is here). Today's post looks at the language of the Famicom.

Jargon is an interesting thing. Impenetrable to outsiders, it helps to define the group of people who use it. Over time, some words may make their way into the larger lexicon of the language in question, but most do not.

When I try to think of some English examples of, for example, NES related jargon that kids back in the day used, I can't really come up with anything. I'm sure it existed but....I don't know. Nothing comes to mind. Weird...some of you readers out there must have some?

Anyway, over at Tatta Hitori no Famicom, they have put together a dictionary of all the "yougo" (jargon) that Famicom fans have developed over the years. It is surprisingly large, with 177 entries to date. I spent a bit of time pouring over these, some are quite witty and amusing. Others perhaps not so much so.

I decided to translate a few of them for your reading pleasure. So here you go all you Famicom wannabes: How to speak "Famicom yougo" like a real 80s Japanese kid.

I've divided these into two sections, the first one looks at some general Famicom words/phrases. The second one looks at words specific to individual games.

Section 1: General Famicom Vocab

ファミコンあらし - "Famicom Arashi". I love this one, probably its my favorite. The definition on the website says:

"A person who goes to a friend's house only to play the Famicom and then goes right home after. Includes people such as those who only owned a Sega, or whose parents accidentally bought them Family Basic thinking it was a Famicom."

ファミカー "Famikaa" - Someone who really likes the Famicom. Also "Famiconist".

ファミる - "Famiru" - the verb form of "Famicom" (ie to "do Famicom" or "Play Famicom"). The -ru ending signifies it is a verb in Japanese.

ファミ逃げ - "Faminige" - Describes the situation where you are playing Famicom at home with someone and they (impolitely) say "Hey, I 'm really good at this part here, gimme the controller" and then when you do they immediately screw it up and die. Then they say "Oh I just remembered something I have to do" and run off. Literally means "Famicom runaway".

Section 2: Game Specific Famicom Vocab

1. Rockman

岩男 - "Iwao." This word is the nickname for Rockman (Megaman). From the Characters for "rock" and "man".

2. Super Mario Brothers

大人マリオ - "Otona Mario". This is the word you use when you get a mushroom on Super Mario Brothers. Literally means "adult Mario".

スタート殺し - "Suta-to Kuroshi" - Used in Super Mario Brothers two player mode. When 2p is jumping over some hazard, 1p pushes the "start" button, pausing the game and messing 2p's timing up. Then pushes "start" again, and 2p dies. Literally means "Start Kill".

3. Dr. Mario

おま連 - "Omaren". Used when your opponent erases two rows of pills in Dr. Mario, causing penalty pills to fall onto your screen. Its an abbreviated way of saying "I have you to thank for these damn pills falling onto my screen."

4. Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Shima (Adventure Island)

カミカゼ - "Kamikaze" - used when you go really fast on the skateboard and run into an enemy.

5. Balloon Fight

地獄落ち - "Jigoku Ochi" - Used in "C" mode when you fall into the abyss and the game makes that "hyuuuuuuuu- " sound. Literally means "Falling into hell".

6. Spelunker

スペランカー的 - "Spelunker-teki". This can be used with any game, not just Spelunker. It literally means "Spelunker-ish", and refers to any game where you die quickly. A reference to the fact that the Spelunker character dies really easily in that game.

Related Posts

- Dining a la carte: Ice Climber Famicom Japanese

- Famicom History


  1. Ha! Are these real? As in, were they really used? Some of them read as though they were made up after the fact (by people with a witty sense of humor).

    Anyway, you're right about there not being any English examples of the same. At least, I can't think of anything.

    I wonder, in Japan did everything gaming-related become a "Nintendo" for quite some time as it did in the States?

  2. Would I be able to beg you to translate the rest of those? They sound hilarious.

  3. Bryan - I think they are real. The guy on Tatta Hitori no Famicom Shounen says they were at least. He stresses that there were some local variations in use in different parts of Japan though.

    I think they very well could be real, at least most of them. Japanese people are always coming up with slang and abbreviations like this for things that are popular, so it rings true to me.

    And LOL, I remember the days when the NES was just the "Nintendo". They never did that here, I guess because Nintendo wasn't a new company (unlike in the States). Also "Famicom" is itself a nickname. If you look at the original Famicom it doesn't have the word "Famicom" on it anywhere, it was slang coined by kids to shorten the official "Family Computer" name. Only later did Nintendo start using the word.

  4. Kerobaros - if I had more time, I would have totally translated all 177. Actually I might make that a long term project, and do it over a few posts! Glad you like them!

  5. This is awesome. I think the guy from GameCenter CX uses these from time to time.

  6. Man, those are hilarious! I've totally had situations like those described growing up playing games with friends. I'd love to see all of them translated, just to see what kind of other things there are. Please hold through with that plan of yours to translate a few at a time!

  7. Thanks Nate and Skyrunner14! I will try to put up more in the coming weeks!

  8. Okay, these are AMAZING and I don't know why American kids never came up with any words/slang for this kind of stuff! Thanks for translating, I hope you'll make this a regular feature.

  9. Thanks Vintango! They are cool, aren't they? Maybe I'll translate a few more this week sometime!

  10. Pretty sure that kids in the U.S. did come up with this kind of slang. I remember somebody talking about when the Mushroom popped up in SMB it was called a "Getchyobig" by the excited kids running their words together.

  11. Thanks Zach, that is the kind of NES slang I was trying to think of. I know we must have used phrases like that, but its really hard to remember them!

    "Getchyobig" is now an official part of my SMB vocabulary!

  12. Haha, what a great post! :) Once again, Sean the Wanderer introduces me to something I had no prior knowledge of! :P

  13. Thanks, Simon! Sean the Wanderer is happy to introduce! :)

  14. A great entry, sorry I missed it when first published. I love little cultural insights like this.

    The first which popped to mind in the west is "shmup", an abbreviation of shoot-em-up, or a game played on a 2D plane where you shoot things. Never to be spelled schmup, or with the letter "c" anywhere in it. It's a British term, invented by Zzap64 magazine, which was a publication dedicated to the Commodore 64. Some people hate the word, I love it. Love it to bits.

    I'm sure there's quire a few more, but I couldn't think of many (miniboss, oneup, button-mash, beat-em-up), so I went googling, which jogged my memory.

    This page has quite a few, but sadly he doesn't have SHMUP listed, which loses him points in my book.

    But it reminded me of the following:

    Combo - string of moves

    Easter egg -secret hidden by the developer

    Grind - perform repetitive task to level up

    Hot coffee - not NES slang, but slang parlance all the same.

    Plus he missed a few others:
    Camper - someone who waits in areas where power-ups spawn

    Metroidvania - a game similar in style to Super Metroid or CV:SOTN

    Puzzler - a game like Tetris

  15. Thanks, Sketcz, when I wrote this post I was wracking my brain trying to think of some like that but drew a blank. I knew we had some (I use "Camper" when playing Goldeneye on the N64 in multiplayer), but that is a good list.

    Incidentally the Japanese version of "Shmup" is "Hikoki game". "Hikoki" means airplane, but it is used for any spaceship/helicopter based shooter as well. I learned this just from listening to my wife, who always calls games like 1942 and Galaga Hikoki games.

  16. Don't they also use the acronym STG?

    Actually, a google brought up the JPN Wikipedia. I tried a hiragana and kanji search for hikoki but couldn't spot it (飛行機) unless my kanji is wrong, which it may well could be!

  17. Yes, they also use "STG" or "シューティングゲーム" ("shooting game") to describe this.

    Your kanji is correct, BTW. My wife refers to them as "Hikoki game" which in Japanese is 飛行機ゲーム.

    Just doing a google search for that I find some stuff that is about actual airplane games but also random stuff (blog posts, etc) where people use it to describe scrolling shooters.

    It might not be the most common term. I suspect it is the type of phrase that someone who doesn't play that type of game (ie girls) uses to describe them rather than people who actually play them.

  18. well sean the famicom man strikes again

  19. Now I'm trying to think of slang we used to have for games in the 90's...
    I'm pretty sure we didn't call a Hadouken a Hadouken. Unlike the Japanese, Brits seem to call naming something after the sound it makes a bit silly, so we called it a "fireball".
    I also remember my cousin calling the rings enemies shoot at you in Starwing/Starfox "heat rings", though those might be their official names.
    "Later on" (not really, but it was a more 'mature' game, so feels like it was later), we called the Zombieman in Doom a "pistol guy", even though he obviously had a rifle.
    There was also the amusing mispronunciations. Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7 was "Sheppy-roth", and I seem to recall some mild arguments over whether she was "Tiffa" or "Teefa"