I laughed immeasurably the other night as I watched ESPN Monday Night Countdown in a bar. Because of the noise, the closed captioning was on and a reference to Donkey Kong was typed as “Donkey Congress”. Which is funny on several levels.

The laughter ended abruptly however, when my husband and I were completel stumped as to why Donkey Kong is called Donkey Kong, when there is less than one donkey anywhere in the game. Kong is self explanatory…and Monkey Kong is damn near appropriate, and yet, it’s called Donkey Kong.


From Gamespot’s History of Donkey Kong:

According to The Ultimate History of Video Games, the creator of the game, Sigeru Miyamoto wanted the game to have an English name, because his company, Nintendo, was still attempting to penetrate the American market. Miyamoto hardly spoke any english, so he consulted a Japanese-English dictionary. He wanted to call the game something along the lines of “Stubborn Gorilla”, which makes sense. Unfortunately, the dictionary gave him the word ‘donkey’ as a synonym of ‘stubborn’, and ‘kong’ as a synonym for ‘gorilla’. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks but, jeez. How about BIG GIANT APES? They’re pretty hard to deal with. It seems silly to create a giant monkey for a game and then look for another animal to call it.

Snopes on the origin of the name “Donkey Kong”.

Thanks for the Snopes link. An interesting read, and certainly possibly correct, although their argument against the mistranslation story seems to be along the lines of “well, we haven’t heard that it’s not true, but we haven’t heard that it definitively is true, either, so we’re going to go with ‘not’”.

The book I referenced above, The Ultimate History of Video Games, by Steven L. Kent, was published in 2001. The Snopes article was last updated in Feb. of 2001, so it’s quite possible the book came out after the Snopes article. Although the story about the mistranslation isn’t a direct quote from Miyamoto, he was clearly interviewed for the book and is quoted throughout. I realize that that in and of itself doesn’t prove that the story is true, but I’m assuming that he was questioned about the origin of the name. Again, I understand that that’s not proof, but the Snopes article isn’t proof enough for me that it’s not true, so I’m standing by the book.

Anamorphic: What kind of half-assed dictionary would give donkey' as a translation or synonym for stubborn’? That would not only involve a rather abstruse cultural translation but, at the same time, a complete incompetence in actual linguistic translation.

The authors wouldn’t be capable of saying that Americans consider donkeys to be stubborn and, at the same time, thinking donkey' was an acceptable *synonym* for stubborn’. It would be equivalent to someone being capable of deriving the quadratic equation but being unable to add two and two.

How high can you get?

Erm, a half-assed one. :slight_smile:

Look, I’m not disagreeing with you that it seems pretty silly, but that doesn’t make it impossible. The book I’m quoting from seems to be a pretty reliable source, and the author clearly interviewed the man in question. Again, I understand that that doesn’t make it irrefutable, but it does a better job of proving to me that it could quite possibly be true than Snopes does in proving to me that it’s absolutely not true.

You would be amazed at what the Japanese can come up with when trying to write English. Just check out

Or what I found on a Japanese corporate Web site. I don’t have the URL handy, but I think it was some sort of telecommunications company. I wrote this down because I thought it was funny:

“We make human communication with a lot of way. communication become to be entertainment for our good life. we can give you a new type confort, and you must feel so nice. that is out satisfaction.”

(Spelling and capitalization left intact as seen on the site)

Thank Og it wasn’t called Ass Kong. I think that is the name of an adult “toy”.

Incidently, putting “ass kong” into Google gave this site (safe for work).