Is Hello Kitty not a cat?

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There's been a to-do over whether Hello Kitty is a cat or a human, a massive uproar of tweets and retweets:

Some folks believe that the confusion over whether Hello Kitty is a feline or a human may be based on the misapplication or mistranslation of the term gijinka 擬人化. See "Hello Kitty isn't a cat!? We called Sanrio to find out!" (Rocket News 24, 8/28/14).

According to my Kenkyusha's Japanese-English Dictionary, 4th ed., which doesn't have gijinka 擬人化, the word gijin 擬人 means "personification; impersonation" and gijinron 擬人論 means "anthropomorphism".

If you attach the suffix -ka 化 to a noun or adjective, it adds the meaning of change or transformation into whatever that noun or adjective stands for, somewhat like -ize or -fy in English. I'm sure that the Japanese grammarians among us can do a much better job of describing the function of suffix -ka 化 than I.

Sanrio is the producer and copyright holder of Hello Kitty. According to Preston Phro, the Rocket News 24 reporter, a Sanrio representative told him that Hello Kitty is not a human; rather, she is a gijinka 擬人化. But Hello Kitty is a being, a creature; she is not a process. The most precise translation of gijinka 擬人化 that I can come up with is "anthropomorphization" (the process of anthropomorphizing), not "anthropomorphism" or "personification", which some have proposed.

If you ask me to say what Hello Kitty is in English, I would describe her as a fictional cat with human attributes. In other words, Hello Kitty is an anthropomorphized (gijinka sareta 擬人化された) cat, rather than a felinized girl.

Let's backtrack a bit and find out how all of this hullabaloo got started. Christine R. Yano, the author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty's Trek Across the Pacific (Duke University Press) and curator of the Japanese American National Museum's retrospective on Hello Kitty, says that, when she was composing the texts for the exhibition, she — quite naturally — described Hello Kitty as a cat. According to LA Times reporter Carolina A. Miranda,

"I was corrected — very firmly," she [Yano] says. "That's one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it's called Charmmy Kitty."

We only have Yano's side of the story, but it does seem that Sanrio really didn't want her to call Hello Kitty a cat flat out. On the other hand, Preston Phro reports that Sanrio told him Hello Kitty is a gijinka 擬人化. So where does that leave our poor little kitten (er, non-kitten)?

Now, if we want to start from scratch, so to speak, what Japanese term should we use to refer to Hello Kitty, who (in my estimation) is a cat that has human qualities? I don't think that gonge 権化 ("incarnation; embodiment; personification") cuts it, since that is reserved for qualities (virtue, tact), not entities. For the time being, we may consult Wikipedia to reflect the current state of Hello Panic:

主人公、キティ・ホワイト(Kitty White)は、白い子猫をモチーフにした擬人化キャラクター[1][2]で、 向かって右側の耳の付け根にトレードマークである赤いリボン、またはそれに類する飾りをつけているのが特徴。サンリオを代表する長寿キャ ラクターである。通称は「キティちゃん」。

"The protagonist, Kitty White, is an anthropomorphized character in a white cat motif…. Commonly referred to as 'Kitty-chan'."

To put all of this in perspective, I would like to quote these paragraphs from a sensible young Japanese woman:

Somehow I have never been a fan of Hello Kitty, so I am not sure if I'm the right person to comment on the present controversy. However, I think there is no clear answer to this, and no need to discuss it.

I read an article with excerpts from the designers' interviews, and the first designer (i.e., the creator of Kitty) simply created this character because she likes cats and thought it would be fun if those cats around her could chat, eat ice cream, and go shopping. This explains everything. Although I have not read the original article in the LA Times, yet I think this is just an overreaction of people. There is no need to discuss whether it is a cat or a girl, because it is, in the end, one lady's imaginary character based on a cat. I don't know why the first designer's words were not quoted anywhere.

We all do this kind of gijinka in our imagination. It might have some roots in Japanese traditional culture of gijinka, such as Chōjū giga 鳥獣戯画 ("Animal Caricatures") [VHM: To which I would add the Jatakas, Aesop's fables, and animal tales in the literatures of many other nations.], but what I see here is rather a young female company worker's fantasizing about her cats at her desk. However, I think it is also interesting that nowadays Kitty is often given a modifier "shigoto wo erabanai 仕事を選ばない (e.g., here, here) ("being not selective about her works / does not choose her works"). This is because, in recent years, Kitty's design has gained more flexibility due to the "licensing" business model by Sanrio. As a result, there are a great many Kitty designs in nonsense costumes, such as Kitty as a fried chicken. To refer to this situation, people use gijinka of Kitty as a working person, and the phrase "shigoto wo erabanai Kitty" emerged. I like this expression.

Let Nathan Hopson have the last word (and picture):

The following image is my favorite meme re/ this phenomenon (and my new Facebook profile):

[Hat tip Ben Zimmer; thanks to Ayako Kano, Nathan Hopson, Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Hiroko Sherry, and Miki Morita]



46 Comments

  1. J. F. said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

    "une" chat?? Ugh.

  2. David Marjanović said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

    Une chatte would at least mean "an explicitly female cat"…

  3. chris said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

    I wonder if there's a substantial cultural difference here? It wouldn't occur to me to describe, e.g., Mickey Mouse as not a mouse because of his humanlike characteristics. He walks on two legs too (as well as other activities not typical of ordinary mice, such as opening doors, holding and using tools, and IIRC even driving cars).

    Although, in a sense, there's no right answer to whether Hello Kitty is a cat or a human: the fact that we can neatly divide up humans in one category and cats in another is contingent on the fact that creatures like Hello Kitty don't really exist.

  4. Katya said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

    In my opinion, Sanrio doesn't get to say whether Hello Kitty is a cat any more than the creator of "gif" gets to prescribe how "gif" is pronounced. That's not how culture works.
    (Love your blog, btw.)

  5. Scott Underwood said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

    The Disney corollary, it seems to me, is not Mickey Mouse but Goofy.

    Goofy is clearly a dog, but an upright-walking, English-talking dog. And Pluto is clearly a "real" dog who walks on all fours and does not speak (corollary to Charmmy Kitty). One major difference is that Pluto does not seem to be Goofy's dog.

  6. MTBradley said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

    Now, if we want to start from scratch, so to speak

    This is the worst pun I have ever loved.

  7. Tom Noir said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

    What baffles me is that this wouldn't have been a big deal if Sanrio hadn't specifically objected to calling Hello Kitty a cat. Why do they have a problem with that? Because it seems like they are splitting some very fine hairs here and it's not clear what the end-game is.

  8. Andrew said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 10:29 pm

    Someone from Kotaku evidently asked Sanrio for clarification, and received the answer "It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat." Ref: http://kotaku.com/dont-be-silly-hello-kitty-is-a-cat-1627820750

  9. Steve B said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

    It's worth noting that "キティ・ホワイト" is a phonetic rendering of the English "kitty white", rather than being the Japanese word for cat, kitten or whatever.

  10. Ethan said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 11:58 pm

    If I had to come up with a single English word to translate Japanese 擬人化, I think I'd go with "mascot". Hello Kitty is a rather tame ('scuse the pun) example. For references to 擬人化 representing everything from operating systems to fast food chains to military hardware, see Wikepedia on gajinka. I have the impression that they are more often created by outsiders than by official publicists.

    Here is a set of "OS-tans" created to personify various linux operating system distributions. The colors and styling are inside jokes that play off the respective branding and splash-screen art.

  11. Lazar said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 3:22 am

    @Katya: Mike Rugnetta of the PBS Idea Channel solved the gif controversy with [ʒaɪf].

  12. Alex O'Sullivan said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 4:10 am

    I understood 'chatte' to mean 'pussy', with all the connotations of the English word. Hence 'le chat'

  13. tpr said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 4:31 am

    @Katya

    In my opinion, Sanrio doesn't get to say whether Hello Kitty is a cat any more than the creator of "gif" gets to prescribe how "gif" is pronounced. That's not how culture works.

    I definitely agree with you when it comes to the pronunciation of gif, but it seems intent matters more in the Hello Kitty case so the opinion of its creator is more relevant. Another example would be whether Ridley Scott has any say about whether the Deckard character in Blade Runner is or isn't a replicant. I'm undecided.

  14. Damian Cugley said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 4:44 am

    Maybe the confusion arises because "cat", or whatever the translation of that term was that the person from Sanrio was reacting to, has connotations of nonperson or pet animal in Japanese. The company statement then boils down to "Kitty White is not a pet cat, she is a person", which is not confusing at all.

  15. Ben Zimmer said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 5:05 am

    Todd VanDerWerff tied together Hello Kitty and Blade Runner (and Tony Soprano and Dumbledore) in his Vox piece on authorial intent.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 9:25 am

    I should have thought of this before, and am surprised that no one has mentioned it yet, viz., surely somewhere in the heritage of Hello Kitty is the extraordinary novel "I Am a Cat":

    =====

    I Am a Cat (Japanese: 吾輩は猫である Hepburn: Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) is a satirical novel written in 1905–1906 by Natsume Sōseki, about Japanese society during the Meiji Period (1868–1912); particularly, the uneasy mix of Western culture and Japanese traditions, and the aping of Western customs.

    Sōseki's original title, Wagahai wa neko de aru, uses very high register phrasing more appropriate to a nobleman, conveying a grandiloquence and self-importance intended to sound ironic, since the speaker, an anthropomorphised domestic cat, is a house cat, not feral.

    =====

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_a_Cat

  17. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    @MTBradley

    Thanks for catching that pun!

  18. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    @David Marjanović, but for everybody who is fluent in French (and other languages that have similar gender systems)

    Is it really possible to take a masculine noun for an animal like "chat" and turn it into a feminine noun "chatte"? And vice versa for turning a feminine noun for an animal into a masculine noun? If so, how often is it done, and what are the limits to doing it?

  19. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 10:27 am

    The last few part of this article features Hello Kitty and her empire, including credit cards, jets, and a maternity hospital.

    "Every kitty helps, and other business news of the week"
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28938060

  20. James Bradbury said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 11:11 am

    But don't we all know that a white cat is not a cat? Problem solved!

  21. Stuart Brown said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    Victor asked: Is it really possible to take a masculine noun for an animal like "chat" and turn it into a feminine noun "chatte"?

    I don't really think that you can make it up as you go along. In the case of animals, these pairs often exist already (chat-chatte, chien-chienne). I'm not a native speaker, so maybe I shouldn't comment, but I'd say that the two gender terms probably only exist where the sex difference is important to humans (animals that are bred, for example, you would sometimes need to specify sex of an individual). I have a female cat, but I talk about her as "mon chat", not "ma chatte". Mouse is feminine (une souris), but Mickey Mouse is clearly male, and I don't think he becomes "un souris" (he's just called Mickey in France). If you do need to indicate the female of a masculine animal, I think you can always say "la femelle du…" e.g. "la femelle du lemming".
    I feel the French are not too keen to make ad hoc grammatical inventions, but if you really wanted to, you would follow the pattern of existing pairs of words in the language (gris-grise, bon-bonne, fou-folle, etc.), but if you came up with "une hibolle" for a female owl (un hibou), I'm sure that would be seen as (at best) a humorous "barbarism".

  22. msH said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    On the question of "un chat", I have a blog under the character of a cartoon hedgehog. An acquaintance whose native language is Argentine Spanish nicknamed me "Erizita" or Erizeta, which was his first spelling, because I am female, whereas a hedgehog in Spanish is masculine, erizo. And he both says and writes it. So I think it is possible in some situations that involve human beings. However, it may be that Spanish generally is more flexible about this than French is, as I think I have encountered other instances in my limited experience of Spanish, and none in my much greater (near-fluent, at one time) experience of French.

  23. GH said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 11:45 am

    @Victor Mair (to add to Stuart's response):

    As I understand it, French (like English, but to a greater extent) often have distinct words for various female animals: chat/chatte, chien/chienne (dog/bitch), lion/lionne (lion/lioness), cochon/cochonne (pig/sow), éléphant/éléphante (elephant), chameau/chamelle (camel), lapin/lapine (rabbit/doe), renard/renarde (fox/vixen), ours/ourse (bear/she-bear), âne/ânesse (donkey/jenny), etc. The change in ending is typical of how adjectives and nouns get their female form in French. In most cases, I believe an animal of unidentified gender would default to male. I'm not sure whether French-speakers ever refer to a known female animal by the male form, as Stuart suggests.

    However, the pattern doesn't always hold. Sometimes the word for the female is formed differently, e.g. canard/cane (duck), loup/louve (wolf/she-wolf). Sometimes the two genders have completely distinct names, e.g. taureau/vache (bull/cow), coque/poule (rooster/hen), lièvre/hase (hare), chèvre/bouc (goat/billy goat). Like in English, the French often use the female as the "default" for many of these animals. Sometimes there's a separate word for an explicitly male (adult) specimen, e.g. cheval/étalon/jument (horse/stallion/mare), mouton/bélier/brebis (sheep/ram/ewe).

    And sometimes there's no female form at all, and you have to specify it separately e.g. léopard/léopard femelle (leopard/leopardess), jaguar (jaguar), hamster (hamster), élan (moose). More rarely, the basic form is feminine, as in colombe (dove), souris (mouse) or gazelle (gazelle).

    For some names that don't officially have female forms, for example écureuil (squirrel), googling indicates that people nevertheless do come up with and use "écureuille", so the pattern is still somewhat productive.

  24. DMT said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    There is a joke in Aristophanes' Clouds parodying the hair-splitting rhetoric of the Sophists by having Socrates insist that a female fowl should be called "alektruaina," a grammatically feminine neologism based on the usual "alektruon," which was grammatically masculine but in its range of reference was conventionally indiscriminate as to gender.

  25. Paolo said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    @Victor Mair

    Is it really possible to take a masculine noun for an animal like "chat" and turn it into a feminine noun "chatte"? And vice versa for turning a feminine noun for an animal into a masculine noun? If so, how often is it done, and what are the limits to doing it

    In Italian, feminine article+masculine noun is an option to describe positions or jobs held by women and for which there is no established feminine noun, or where the feminine form is not widely accepted or sounds "strange". Example: la ministro (M+F) instead of la ministra (F+F) or il ministro (M+M).
    See "Il Ministro" o "la Ministra"? Fra i due litiganti…

  26. Paolo said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

    sorry, la ministro obviously is F+M

  27. hector said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

    This is a tempest in a teapot. Hello Kitty is a "funny animal." Per Wikipedia: "Funny animal is a cartooning term for the genre of comics and animated cartoons in which the main characters are anthropomorphic or talking animals, with human-like personality traits. The characters themselves may also be called 'funny animals'."

  28. Stephen said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

    @tpr

    Bad example, Ridley Scott clearly has no say about whether Deckard is a replicant. Philip K. Dick on the other hand may be entitled to an opinion.

  29. Rubrick said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

    This whole kerfuffle is drawing attention away from the real question, which is of course whether Ernie and Bert are gay.

  30. tpr said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

    @Stephen

    I'm pretty sure the intentional ambiguity over whether Deckard was a replicant was introduced in the film rather than Dick's novel, but it may have been one of the writers who worked on the screenplay rather than Scott who came up with the idea. In any case, Scott evidently thinks he's in a position to confirm that Deckard was a replicant because that's exactly what he did a few years ago.

  31. JimM said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

    @Tom Noir

    What baffles me is that this wouldn't have been a big deal if Sanrio hadn't specifically objected to calling Hello Kitty a cat. Why do they have a problem with that? Because it seems like they are splitting some very fine hairs here and it's not clear what the end-game is.

    Perhaps Sanrio wished to head off any possibility of association with the Bakenecko, a Japanese supernatural cat whose attributes have an overtone of the demonic, including usurping the places of beloved family, and enacting revenge on cruel humans.

  32. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

    After receiving the following note from Miki Morita, I feel a bit prescient for having written this comment:

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=14347#comment-1252751

    =====

    Wagahai wa nekodearu Kitty:

    http://woman.mynavi.jp/article/140307-3/

    This is a special version of Kitty for Kanda in Tokyo, which is known for its old book stores. The accompanying essay comments on the errors in Miyazawa Kenji's "雨にも負けず、風にも負けず" being "飴にもまけず、風邪にも負けず" here probably as a joke of the designer/manufacturer. The left page features the phrase "wagahai wa nekodearu" with Hello Kitty's face. I wonder what this Kanda Kitty thinks about herself now.

    =====

  33. Ray T. Donahue said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 10:21 pm

    The controversy about Hello Kitty appears to be rooted in error of translation. I believe that Sanri referred to Hello Kitty as擬人化キャラクター but erroneously translated as "personified character." The error arises because 擬人化 can be glossed for either personification or anthropomorphism. It should have been translated as anthropomorphism. That is, the base character is a cat but acts human-like. By use in English, anthropomorphism is applied to cases when the base form is animate, such as with cartoon animals—Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc., that have human characteristics. Sanri was likely emphasizing that Hello Kitty is not merely a cat but has a human lifestyle. "Personification" slipped in to possibly emphasize this "humanness" while forgetting completely its base form—a cat. "Anthropomorphism" (or its variants) if used would have carried the day and avoided the confusion if not crisis in the world of popular culture.

  34. Victor Mair said,

    September 1, 2014 @ 6:56 am

    "Taiwan's Hello Kitty Maternity Hospital"

    http://www.weirdasianews.com/2009/09/12/taiwans-kitty-maternity-hospital/

  35. Sean O'Hara said,

    September 1, 2014 @ 10:05 am

    Japanese companies can be incredibly anal about how their works are translated, even if their ideas are bad or even nonsensical English, such as a recent anime series which has the official English title, "Encouragement of Climb."

  36. Suburbanbanshee said,

    September 1, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    "Funny animal" is what American cartoonists call it; "anthropomorphic animal" is the more general term. (Given that these days, most anthropomorphic comics, animes, fantasy novels, etc. are dramatic rather than funny, I think even most comics people call them "anthropomorphic animals.")

  37. Stephen said,

    September 1, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

    @tpr

    The ambiguity about Deckard's status may be a little more obvious in the film but in DADoES the real/artificial question is present throughout and applied to many people & creatures.

    Scott *may* think that he's in a position to confirm that Deckard is a replicant but that does not mean that he actually is in that position.

    He produced a derivative work. It may well be his opinion that Deckard is a replicant and that may be what he intended to convey but I don't think that this makes him an authority on Deckard's status in toto.

    Taking us back to the point. Saying that Scott is an authority on Deckard is the same as saying that the maker of a cartoon about Hello Kitty can give a definitive answer as to whether she is a cat or not.

  38. tpr said,

    September 1, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    @Stephen

    I don't know whether authorial intent can be used to decide these issues and I'm not sure what sort of evidence would help me to decide whether it can. I suspect there simply isn't any fact of the matter as to whether Deckard is a replicant or Hello Kitty is a cat.

    The Vox article Ben Zimmer linked to above points out that critics have moved away from authorial intent as a determining factor, but as far as I can tell, that's because it just fell out of favor in literary criticism rather than because some sort of evidence changed people's minds.

    The emphasis on intention might be related to how language works in conversation. We need to reconstruct the communicative intent of a speaker if we want to rule out interpretations that are too unlikely for the speaker to bother explicitly denying. When we can't figure out what a speaker intends, we ask them. The focus on authorial intent might be an extension of that habit, which might also account for why lay folk are still very much interested in it, even if literary critics aren't.

  39. un malpaso said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 9:32 am

    @Scott Underwood:
    The real question is… if Goofy is a dog, is Pluto a planet? ;)

    (Maybe he's just a dwarf dog with planet-like characteristics.)

  40. GH said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 10:21 am

    @Stephen, tpr:

    Blade Runner is only very loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Many questions one could ask about Deckard and other characters have different answers in the book and in the film. So in asking whether Deckard in is a replicant in Blade Runner, the authorial intent of Scott, Fancher and Peoples necessarily overrides that of Dick.

    Shakespeare's Hamlet is similarly a derivative work, but if we were to look to authorial intent for insight into e.g. Hamlet's psychology (why does he hesitate? is he mad? etc.), we would have to ask the playwright, who diverged from and greatly elaborated on his sources, rather than Saxo Grammaticus or whoever we nominate as the "original" author.

    As for who came up with "Deckard is a replicant", according to Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner (excerpted here), Fancher and Peoples both came up with the suggestion, but always intended it as more of a philosophical conundrum (i.e. "what is the difference, really, between being a human and being a replicant?") than a literal plot twist. However, Scott latched onto the idea of Deckard being an actual replicant and ran with it.

  41. Brett said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    He didn't run very far, honestly.

  42. Stephen said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

    @tpr I think there are two reasonable views:
    1. What the author intended is what we should accept.
    2. Each of us is reading (viewing, whatever) the work from our own perspective and how we envisage the work is what is important to us, hence 'the pictures are better on the radio'.

    I think that neither is 'right' but that each is more right in different situations, where by a situation I mean potentially quite a small part of the whole work.

    For example if the author (of a non-visual current day work) mentions a car and says that it is very fast then as a reader thinking of something rubbish from the 1970s is 'wrong', at least in the sense that it is not helpful. If the car being fast is relevant to the plot then it is even more 'wrong' than that.

    On the other hand if a character is described in some detail but his hair colour is not mentioned then whatever reader is most comfortable with is 'right' for them.

    Obviously details like that are clear in a visual work but there will be other, less tangible, matters.

    So I think that people are wrong to slavishly seek for authorial intent but that totally rejecting it is throwing away something of value.

  43. Stephen said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

    @GH I'm sorry but I think that your argument is undermined in your first sentence.

    You seem to be saying that because BR is only loosely based on DADoES then Dick's intentions are less import that those of Scott, et al, but you have not defined how this looseness is measured and what the cut-off point is.

    Unless you can do that (which I think is an impossibility) I don't think that this argument holds water.

    If you want to say that BR is a different work than DADoES and therefore the authors of BR define what is 'right' in BR but only in BR then I think that that is a reasonable argument. However to say that you then need to refer always to BR-Deckard rather than to Deckard.

    I have only skimmed the linked article (one of the worst colour schemes I have seen in a long time) but it seems to make the opposite point than one you did:
    "Before the Future Noir reader incorrectly assumes that Scott alone was responsible for the Deckard-as-replicant concept, however, it should be noted that author Pilip K. Dick had already toyed with this idea in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"

    Also, it seems to be clearly making the distinction between Deckard and BR-Deckard that I mentioned:
    "Further-more, the cinematic notion of Deckard as a replicant originated with screenwriter Hampton Fancher".

  44. Ice Wolf said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 3:36 pm

    @Ray "擬人化 can be glossed for either personification or anthropomorphism … By use in English, anthropomorphism is applied to cases when the base form is animate,"

    Not quite, in the common vernacular, both Anthorpomorphism and Personification are interchangable. And there is no "animate" requirement. A pet rock, would be an anthorpormism, and for most people, would be called a personification of the rock..

    Depending on where/when one was taught and to what degree, you can ascribe nuances to each — anthropomorphism being the general term of ascribing any human quality to any object or idea, concrete or abstract. And personification being the embodiment of an idea or concept as a character which may itself be anthropomorphic. (e.g. Death may be personified as a middle-aged female character in russia, a older male in Germany, but in other places it can be personified as an anthorpomorphic skeleton.) This was the rote definition we learnt in Canada, (Ontario, 1990-2000), which maintains a clear distinction, and not mutually exclusivity of the terms)

    Re: 擬人化
    That 化 really always threw me in Japanese, as it ascribes a cultural notion that still hasn't resonated with me. The translation of what that means will never lie in line with any given English term. And to expect it to is folly.

    I still internally gloss gijinka as "Anthro-character" for animal characters that are bipedal; "feral (anthro-)character" for quadripedal or otherwise more visually close to the base referant (lion king = feral; bugs bunny = anthro); both being subsets of "furry characters" being a subset of "Anthorpomorpic characters".

    Anthropomorphic character, Anthro (Modern definition of "Furry" or "Anthropomorphic animal character" is blurred by either 獣人 獣人化 獣化, each having different nuances that all distinct, partially overlapping subsets of the Internet/Doujin/Pop-Culture). ANd because of these newer terms, 擬人 and other terms are now gaining nuances that are more generalized and old-fashioned, than the more specialized vocabulary showing up in all the doujin; and interactions in the kemo(獣) communities/conventions/etc.

    Re: Bad translation
    Yes. As the Japanese have a rich vocabulary describing differing combinations of spirits, animals, and humans of varying degrees; and each with different connotations; they can rightly and clearly say that "XXX is not a fox, XXX is a YYY" despite in English, without the cultural and linguistic history to say otherwise, both halfs of the statement "XXX is a fox, XXX is a [rough translation of YYY, or argument on anthroness]" are true.
    Braveheart Lion is a lion. (EN) True**. (JA) False**
    Simba is a lion. (EN) True**. (JA) True**

    ** Answer will vary depending on who you ask, and their familiarity with vocabulary, history, culture, and their exposure to the comic/animation industry; even more heated arguments with those exposed to the relevant furry/internet communities.

  45. GH said,

    September 2, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

    @Stephen:

    This is getting way off topic, so I'll let this be my last post on the subject.

    I would have thought it goes without saying that Blade Runner is a separate work from Do Androids…, and that Scott has no authorial, err, authority over the latter. The discussion about Deckard's status is always about the movie character only, since there's no open issue in the book, where Deckard passes the VK test. Also, "replicant" is a term used only in the movie.

    (As a sidebar, the computer graphic adventure game creates a similar ambiguity around its main character (another blade runner), but explicitly adopts the "death of the author" perspective by making the answer dependent on your actions as a player.)

    Whether one can consider the android police station in the book as the inspiration for the idea that Deckard is a replicant is open to interpretation. However, the book/author/film relationship in this case does offer some interesting points about the "death of the author" theory, as certain comments PKD made about the novel right before his death seem influenced by the film, which he had seen early footage from, and not really reflective of the book as originally written. (For example saying that Harrison Ford was just like he'd pictured Deckard, when the book character is described as looking quite different.)

  46. Ray T. Donahue said,

    September 3, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

    @Ice Wolf, thanks for your comment. In reply, indeed, 擬人化 includes both personification or anthropomorphism. Second, while it is true that personification is more commonly used for both in the *vernacular" of English, that doesn't mean the terms are synonymous. Just because people commonly use the terms interchangeably doesn't mean they do so correctly.

    Surely my bare explanation does not do full justice; however even the most elegantly elucidated one will miss fuzzy cases that defy categorization. Finally, if I read correctly, you seem to contradict yourself when you yourself apply "antro-" to cartoon characters, which follows a tradition of classifying animal cartoon characters as anthropomorphism in English. Thus the basis for error in translation because personification was technically misapplied in the reports about the Hello Kitty crisis. :)

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