The wonderful world of Pokémon! I think everyone has wanted these creatures to be real at some point. Game Freak’s famous creations live all around Pokémon World, from the deepest depths of its oceans to the far reaches of space. There are over 700 known Pokémon populating the regions across their world—that’s a lot to classify. Luckily, their discoverers have a literal sense of humor when it comes to naming these magnificent beasts. Not thoroughly literal, as in “blue bat” and “snake made of steel”, but a funnier, sometimes more chagrining classification. It’s…Poképuns!
No matter how odd or obscure, every Pokémon has a name that corresponds to its type and design. Today I’ll be using my questionable noggin to guess the origins of 17 of them. Why 17? I don’t know because “Dancing Queen” is awesome? Originally it was going to be 20, but that might have been a bit long. I narrowed down to 13 entries, but a few include the entire evolutionary line. So, we’re at 17. You can dance, you can jive…
My assistant is the handy-dandy randompokemon.com, a toggle site that generates sprites of up to 6 Pokémon. This is my first round, so I chose which Pokémon to investigate out of the results. I also chose the first four myself because I wanted to talk about them. After my guess, I’ll check the accepted origin on Bulbapedia, the biggest Pokéncyclopedia on the net. Oh Bulbapedia, whatever would my Nuzlockes have done without you?
So here we go through Pokémon World, climbing mountains, fording streams, following rainbows, and seeing what little pocket monster likes to find dreams. No, my first subject isn’t Jigglypuff, it’s…
This dude buzzed in my ear until I agreed to put him on the list. Flygon is a winged desert Pokémon with green scales and protective lenses that let it see through sandstorms—especially the ones it generates! Because its evolutionary line is made up of the only insectoid dragon Pokemon, I’m going to guess “Fly” is a play on the common housefly and “gon” is for dragon. Wait, then I’ve been pronouncing it wrong. Flygin? Fly-gone? Fly-B-Gone!
Flygon’s Ground typing is inherited from its base stage Trapinch, a stout orange insect that wouldn’t look out of place in Mario. Trapinch is based on the antlion, which digs funnels in the ground to capture its prey. What big jaws you have, Trapinch-lion! Growing up in the desert would solidify Flygon as a full-time Ground Pokemon. What was it, “I was born and raised in the sand…”
Bulbapedia check: Flygon is based on the adult stage of the antlion! For the name, Bulbapedia speculates that Flygon is a partial rearrangement of dragonfly, which shares similarities with adult antlions. I at least got the “gon” part right, but somehow missed that “Fly” is for dragonfly? Arrrrrrghhhhhhhh!
- Elgyem and Beeheyem
As residents of Unova, this cranial duo was among the last generation of Pokémon to receive the pilot’s scorn of St. Genwunner’s Stigma. And oh, I did not spare the scorn. I took one look at these guys and thought, What—they’re dumb! And their names? Elgyem and Beeheyem? Game Freak ran out of names.
Except that they didn’t, because of course they wouldn’t drop some random consonants and vowels onto a Pokémon. After Gen. V thoroughly schooled me in having the “worst” Pokémon and yet the BEST gameplay at that point in time, I started spending time on Bulbapedia and soaking up all the game knowledge I could. It turns out Elgyem and its evolution are rumored to be linked to a UFO crash in the desert 50 years ago. In other words, they might be bona fide aliens—no wonder they’re Psychic. More specifically, they’re LGMs and BEMs! AKA, Little Green Men and Bug-Eyed Monsters. Out of this world. Far out. I’ll spare you any more puns. Now please excuse me while a guy with a multi-page chart and a defiant glare explains to me that Elgyem can’t have come from a UFO crash in the desert if their area of populace is all the way in Celestial Tower, three routes away. Why not head on over to entry number three, which is…
Okay, honestly, I…don’t know why these guys are called Armaldo. I guess “arm” is a play on its armored plates, or perhaps its bipedal evolution gave way from pincers to arms? The Rock typing comes from its resurrection from a Claw Fossil, along with its base form Anorith’s being Bug.
Bulbapedia Check: Looks like Armaldo is based off the extinct Anomalocaris, a shrimplike creature that propelled through the water with its many lobes. As for the name, Bulbapedia says “Armaldo may be a corruption of armor, a combination of armor and armadillo or a combination of “armor” and “ald”, an old Saxon word meaning “old”.” I definitely dropped the ball on this one.
Also, I used a Feraligatr named Armaldo to defeat Cynthia for the first time in Pokémon Diamond. I was such a Genwunner at the time that I traded for a pre-Sinnoh team instead. Sad, huh? I mistook Armaldo for a real name and attributed it to a humble Feraligatr guard who devoted his services to the royal court. I must have been thinking about Armando.
- Nincada, Ninjask, Shedinja
Type: Bug/Ground, Bug/Flying, Bug/Ghost
One of the most unique Pokémon in regards to evolution. Nincada is a cicada native to Hoenn. I believe nymph is an early stage of cicada larvae, hence the Nin (or, like, Nintendo. Keep walking, folks.) Periodic cicadas are known for digging underground and hibernating there for 13 to 17 years. When they reappear, they’ve grown into their flying adult form. Nincada forgoes the wait, evolving quickly into Ninjask at level 20. So quickly that now they’re super fast! Ninjask has a walloping 160 base Speed stat that only gets faster the longer it stays in battle. It’s second to only Deoxys as the fastest Pokémon in existence. That and its dark, sickle-armed appearance remind me of ninjas. The gold protrusion fastened around its head also looks like a mask, which might be where the latter part comes from.
As for Shedinja, well. If you have an empty slot in your party and, in certain games, an extra Pokéball, you’ll get one when Nincada evolves. In real life, adult cicadas shed their skin after emerging from their 17-year sleep. In Pokémon World, that skin becomes a ghost! Consider it a spectral carryover from a life left behind.
Bulbapedia check: Young cicadas are nymphs, “Nin” is for ninja, “jask” rhymes with mask, and Shedinja sheds its skin!
That’s all the ones I chose personally. Let’s see who came up in the generator.
The biggest letdown of the feline Pokemon. Liepard looked so cool but turned out rather hard to use effectively. No matter, we’re looking at Purrloin today, and…what…why is he standing on two legs?
This mischief-mannered kitten has a penchant for theft, nabbing trinkets on the sly while deceiving the items’ former owners with its adorable face. So, they purloin. While purring. Purrloin!
Bulbapedia check: Nailed it, except that I didn’t think of Purrloin’s possible inspiration of cat burglars.
An OG of the dozers. Drowzee’s a good pal to go to if you need a solid 8 hours of sleep, but you better be okay with sharing the experience as a delicacy—Drowzee eats dreams! This psychic tapir shambles through life with a half-awake smile perpetually plastered on his face. Drowsy Drowzee, the Psychic hypnotist.
Bulbapedia check: Drowsy is correct, with zee possibly being onomatopoeia for the sleepy expression zzz. Drowzee itself turns out to be based on the baku, a Japanese mythological beast that dines on nightmares. Baku takes inspiration from tapirs and elephants.
Octillery is a cool octopus Pokémon that can learn a plethora of beaming moves via level-up. Signal Beam, Ice Beam, and Hyper Beam to name some. But Signal Beam is Bug! And Octillery is so totally Water! How can that be? Besides Pokémon being awesome like that, Octillery is based on a turret. Sturdy suction on cups on an array of tentacles keep it firmly on the ground while its derpy cannon mouth shoots powerful beams that dazzle the ocean. Hoo-yah! This octopus is a one-man artillery!
Bulbapedia check: Okay, I specifically remember this one from a Bulbapedia venture years ago. Otherwise I’d have no idea why it’s called Octillery or where the natural beaming comes from. Bulbapedia says Octillery is based on “a tank or wheeled cannon”. I guess this makes Remoraid a piscine ray gun then.
He’s cute! Kind of. Bewear is a native to our current spotlighted region, Alola. The name is a warning. This big ursa can be as cuddly as your regular (Normal) teddy bear, but unlike your fundamental childhood buddy, they’re immensely powerful. If they like you, they’re ready to wrap you up in a big hug…that’ll crush your spine. The Pokédex says that “Many Trainers have left this world after their spines were squashed by its hug.” Yikes! The ‘Dex also states the unrestrained power of untrained Bewear and how its habitats are forbidden to human travelers. Beware the bear! I have no idea what the ear band is about though. Beware the bear wearing a pair of white ears! He’ll knock the stuffing out of you. That’s why he’s a Fighting-type!
Bulbapedia check: Bulbapedia lists off bears, red pandas, stuffed animals and mascot costumes as Bewear’s inspirations. It also mentions a professional wrestling move called the “bear hug”, which pins the opponent into a dominating grapple. Guess that’s a double reference to the cuddly bear hug and the crushing, controlling kind of bear hug…
Bewear and its base stage Stufful also happen to be the exclusive wielders of the ability Fluffy, a nod to their teddy bear inspiration. It halves the damage of contact moves, but doubles that of Fire moves…guess he can’t throw down with Incineroar anytime soon.
Hark, the generic bird of Unova. Pidove is a pint-sized trooper with resemblances to doves and pigeons. Their chests are feathered over with plates that look like hearts. This is a reference to the dove, a symbol of peace. There goes too an auditory origin: Pidove, peaceful dove.
One of Pidove’s Abilities is Big Pecks, which prevents Defense drops. You know, it’s probably supposed to reference the little bird’s valiant spirit, but given what it does I always figured it meant Pidove had solid chests they liked to pop from time to time. You know, big pecs? Okay, okay, let’s move on…
Bulbapedia check: Pigeon and dove. Boom.
- Foongus and Amoonguss
What’s that? A stray Pokéball outside Chargestone Cave! You hurry forward, shuffling through the dense grass to pick up the find. It’s so easy for clumsy trainers to lose things in these routes. You reach the ball and crouch, taking the item in your hand. Wait, aren’t Pokéballs supposed to be hard? What’s with the moistness? And why is it rustling? Heavy with dread, you feel a force furrowing beneath the ball. The movement digs up soil, filling your nostrils with the thick scent of loam. The dome pushes into your palm and then pops up—it’s a sentient mushroom! And did it just poison you? I think you need a doctor!
Foongus and Amoonguss join Voltorb and Electrode as Pokémon mistaken for Pokéballs. They’re obviously inspired by mushrooms, the tastiest fungus. Not every mushroom should be eaten, however. Some are toxic, leaving the diner debilitated with a manner of harrowing conditions. And quite frankly, I think some make you hallucinate. That’s why the Pokémon are part Poison and have Effect Spore as their Ability.
Also, these Pokémon are fungi that look like something they’re not. They blend perfectly into their surroundings, looking for all the world like a red-and-white sphere so often lost to the woods…something’s not right here. I think there’s a fungus among us.
Bulbapedia check: Along with the hilarity of there being fungus among us, Bulbapedia reports many things about these bulky disguisers. “Foo” may be “fool”, since Foongus’s caps trick people into believing they’re Pokéballs. Amoongus may also be a play on “humongous”. As for the type of mushroom, these Pokémon may be based on a white-gilled toadstool called Amanita muscaria. Due to the line’s poisonous properties, Bulbapedia also suggests inspiration from Agaricus mushrooms.
- Eevee (and co)
It’s Kanto’s palindrome! Eevee is an exceptionally popular Pokémon, dominating merchandise sales with other hits like Pikachu and Charmander. This is all thanks to its adorable looks, doglike hardiness and charm, and amazing range of evolutions unmatched by any other Pokémon. Eevee takes on a permanent form upon exposure to a specific environmental trigger. There are currently eight known evolutions, each of which ends in the suffix –eon. This could refer to the eons of time it takes for a species to evolve, shortened by Eevee’s insta-change. It also might refer to geons, the subjects of Irving Biederman’s recognition-by-components theory. RBC theory suggests that we recognize objects by breaking them down into three-dimensional shapes that can be rearranged. That’s fitting to the spectrum of forms Eevee can become. As for its own typing, Eevee is a pretty regular Pokémon that will change dramatically after it evolves. It makes sense the base stage would be Normal.
Bulbapedia check: You know, I realized I didn’t actually guess Eevee’s name origin and did so for its evolutions instead. Bulbapedia states that “Eevee” sounds like “E-V”, aka evolution. It also says Eevee is based on multiple animals, specifically foxes, cats, and dogs. Makes sense, but this dude shall always be vulpine to me. A brown fox is a blank slate upon which anything can be written…
Of course they’re Grass, they’re starters! Torterra is a veritable landscape of a reptile, classified “The Continent Pokémon”. It’s especially slow-moving under the extra weight, but what can you expect from the Turtle with the World on its Back? That’s right, Torterra hails reference to the Cosmic Turtle, the great deity of multiple faiths. “Tor” refers to tortoise, the turtle’s land-dwelling cousin. “Terra” is Latin for earth, giving a triple reference to Torterra’s Ground typing. Cosmic Turtle, tortoise, terra. Certainly a creative one in the starter lines.
Bulbapedia check: Tortoise, earth, Cosmic Turtle, triple check. Bulbapedia also lists snapping turtles, ankylosaur, and Asian mythology’s Black Tortoise as possible inspirations. For the name, Bulbapedia had extra fun: terrapin for a kind of turtle, tuatara for a lizard-like reptile, and totara for a tall tree with a sprawling canopy.
And we close off with….
Pyroar, the lion! This regal Pokemon has a radiant mane bursting with rich flamelike hues. I think that’s the cross for the dual typing. The mane is fiery and so is the spirit, but perhaps the rest of Pyroar is humble and regular enough to be Normal.
Pyroar’s name is a combination of pyro, a prefix for words meaning heat, and the inseparable sound of a lion’s roar. Additionally, a stray Internet comment reports that the male Pyroar’s mane resembles the kanji for fire. Clever, Game Freak.
Bulbapedia check: Roar and pyr- as an alternate pyro, got it. Bulbapedia accounts Pyro’s spiky fur to “stylized lions in heraldry and cat of arms”. It also notes a clever parallel to real lions: Pyroar’s gender ratio is 12.5% to 87.5%, or one lion to seven lionesses. This mirrors the larger number of lionesses in a pride.
Well, that’s the end of this list. Did you have fun? Maybe I’ll do another sometime. Until then, happy travels and hard training!