Few countries are more creative with the use of the portmanteau than Japan. As it often takes more syllables to say something relatively simple, the Japanese language is filled with contractions and combinations of two or more words. This doesn’t always translate well, especially, and unusually, where foreign languages are involved.
The head of Fukushima Industries, a maker of cooling systems and fridges, decided that he wanted a new image for his company – and a mascot with a cute name. Almost every Japanese brand has a mascot, as do the regional prefectures of Japan (imagine Yorkshire represented by a large fluffy pudding), so this seemed like a natural and logical step.
An egg with wings and a ‘strong sense of kind justice’ was chosen as the mascot. Its profile states that it was born in one of the company’s cooling units, patrols the chilled display cases in supermarkets and doesn’t currently identify with either gender. This makes it a very normal mascot by Japanese standards.
The ‘fuku’ in Fukushima means ‘luck’ or ‘good fortune’, and someone at the company hit on the idea of combining it with the English word ‘happy’ to give this cheerful egg its title. They also decided on the cuter ‘English’ style of writing the name: Fukuppy.
There have been several issues with the name since it was announced. The biggest problem has been that Japanese internet users assumed it referred to another ‘Fukushima’ – the area of Japan hit by the tsunami in 2011 and still affected by severe radiation. This led many people to think that the company was trying to make light of a very serious situation, which isn’t the case at all. As a result, the mascot’s name is now written in Japanese kana to avoid confusion.
English speakers had a different problem with the mascot’s name. They’ve been having trouble with the punctuation, to be precise. I won’t elaborate, but suffice to say that something has been lost in the translation.
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