Home > Animals, Bitching, Japan > The Time I Had a Cat’s Name

The Time I Had a Cat’s Name

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments


I had taken Japanese in college for two years before I discovered I had a cat’s name.

I went to Japan for the first time with my family, and I became the de facto translator for the trip, despite my really shitty language skills at that point. On the rare times I would introduce myself in Japanese, the other person would invariably start giggling, and sometimes even meow at me.

Just think of that. Not realizing anything is amiss, you introduce yourself to several people at a party only to have everyone MEOW at you. I thought the citizens of Japan were insane. It was never mentioned in class, but perhaps a meow is also standard with a bow when greeting someone? In the land of used panties, I couldn’t put anything beyond the realm of possibility.

I only found out later that the Japanese pronunciation of my name is “Tama,” which is the most common name for cats in Japan. It’s like meeting someone named Fluffy or Spot. It’s a common name, sure, but not one usually given to humans. There’s even a famous cat named Tama in Japan who works as the station master of Kishi Station. What seemed bizarre at first briefly became cute, and then almost immediately annoying.

Think about it. You’ve studied a language for four years, studied the culture, history, and literature, and have now traveled to the foreign country ready to immerse yourself. You are ready to delve deep and have serious conversations. But immediately upon giving your name, everyone around you puts their fingers up to their heads like cat’s ears and starts meowing. And I mean everyone. I’ve had Japanese politicians and policemen do this to me, as well as school children and their parents. Bad cat puns in Japanese typically pepper the remainder of our conversation.

I tried to think of alternative pronunciations that might save me from this humiliation, but I’ve been told that it’s a bad idea. “Tamura” is close to my name, but is also an actual Japanese surname, so is no good. “Tamiko” got laughs as well. God forbid a foreigner choose a Japanese name, even if it would save me from the meows. Because having a Japanese name would just be TOO silly, you see, but being named “Fluffy” is a-okay.

Categories: Animals, Bitching, Japan
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