Bump of Chicken

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Photo by Ross Bender, taken near Osaka Castle last month:

Ross remarks:

There is so much weird English in Japan that after a while it ceases to shock or interest. However, the attached photo …struck me as somewhat special, even for Japan. Yes, "Bump of Chicken" is the name of a very prominent pop/rock band here.

Somehow this bothered me in a way that other J-pop band names like "Porno Graffiti", "Golden Bomber", or even "Funky Monkey Babys" didn't. These latter seem to me to follow some sort of intuitive English syntax, but "Bump of Chicken"??

Of course I grew up with 1960's band names like "Strawberry Alarm Clock," "Iron Butterfly", "Led Zeppelin" and "Procol Harum", but again, these seem in some way syntactically correct in a way that Bump of Chicken does not.

At any rate, I wouldn't get much work done if I let Japlish or whatever it is keep me up at nights.

For those who are interested in learning more about the band's unusual name, they are Banpu Obu Chikin バンプ・オブ・チキン ("Bump of Chicken"), which means jakusha no hangeki 弱者の反撃 ("counterattack from the weak man").

Here's "Hello, world!" performed by Bump of Chicken, with 35,623,044 views:


  1. krogerfoot said,

    November 23, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

    Bump of Chicken, hailing from my old stomping grounds of Sakura, Chiba (NB: very little stomping actually occurred), has been around for some time now. How they derived their name from 弱者の反撃 or 臆病者の一撃 or the other various attempts the band has made to explain it seems to have remained a mystery.


  2. Martha said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 2:50 am

    "Bump of chicken" sounds like you're snorting it.

  3. Travis Seifman said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 3:29 am

    Huh. I never knew that was the intended meaning of the band's name. I always assumed it meant "goosebumps," or as they call it in Hawaii, "chicken skin."

  4. Matt said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 4:37 am

    I never believed the "counterattack of the weakling" explanation myself. My conspiracy theory is that it is somehow a mangled reference to goosebumps (in Japanese torihada "chicken skin").

  5. Frans said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 6:22 am

    @Matt In Dutch goosebumps are chickenskin (kippenvel), so I immediately wondered how Japanese might refer to the same phenomenon. To me bump(s) of chicken looks like a perfectly regular mangled way of saying chickenbumps, which leaves the question of whether chickenbumps is something they'd want to say in the first place.

  6. Priyank Parikh said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 6:59 am

    I believe the Japanese band Radwimps has a similar origin

  7. John Swindle said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:17 am

    Goosebumps are also chickenskin in Hawaii, in both English and Hawaii Creole English. In light of the explanations given, though, Bump of Chicken looks to me more like an instance of being bumped by a chicken. If that's a possibility, it wouldn't be terribly ungrammatical in English.

  8. Vicki said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:41 am

    Syntactically, that use of "of" for the possessive is somewhat old-fashioned, used mostly for certain titles [or roles]: "President of Mexico" rather than "Mexico's president," or "mother of the bride" as a role in a wedding, rather than "the bride's mother," which is how one would ordinarily refer to someone in a sentence like "I've known the bride's mother for a long time." Again, I wouldn't blink if I saw "mother of the bride" in a discussion of a wedding, but "the cousin of the groom" would stand out.

    I don't think Ross would have been so startled by "Chicken Bump," and "Butterfly of Iron" would definitely sound weirder than "Iron Butterfly" by itself. "The smith made a butterfly of iron," sure, but the resulting decorative object would become an "iron butterfly" when discussed: "the otherwise ordinary fence was decorated with an iron butterfly" or "they said they have to display the iron butterfly, it was a gift from their parents."

    Oddly, "England's queen" instead of "the queen of England" also sounds archaic or formal to me, but that might just be because it's not the ordinary usage.

  9. jo lumley said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:43 am

    I can't help but feel that on its own Wikipedia's claim (repeated in the post above) that "Banpu Obu Chikin バンプ・オブ・チキン ("Bump of Chicken") […] means jakusha no hangeki 弱者の反撃 ("counterattack from the weak man")" stops short of telling us anything useful. In any English I know it doesn't mean that, so I guess this is saying that that's what someone intends / believes it to mean?

    Admittedly, this is all that the English Wikipedia page says, which presumably in turn comes from the Japanese equivalent page, which itself gives no further detail (from what I could see), and a footnote linking to zero information.

    Another source (Japanese) gives some more detail, if it's true, that the band coined the name and gave it its meaning. Then, a further source (Japanese), goes through something that might approximate the process of how someone could intend Bump of Chicken to mean "a coward's attack / a weak [man]'s counterattack", although unfortunately it doesn't underline for its readers that Bump of Chicken doesn't really mean that (or at least for some definition of 'mean', anyway…).

    (This is the first time I ever gave this question any real thought, although I always found the name a bit funny.)

  10. jo lumley said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:45 am

    Sorry, there was no link for my "a further source" — it is supposed to be http://www.sql-master.net/english2/articles/english_presentation141.html

  11. Victor Mair said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:56 am

    The equivalent term in Chinese is jīpí gēda 雞皮疙瘩 (lit., "chicken skin bumps / pimples / lumps", i.e., "goose bumps, goose pimples, goose flesh"). This expression has been in Chinese since at least 1878, when it occurred in the fifth chapter of the Qing dynasty novel called Érnǚ yīngxióng zhuàn 儿女英雄传 ("The Story of Hero Boys and Hero Girls").

    As for other languages, here is what the etymology section of the Wikpedia article on "Goose bumps" has to say:


    The phrase "goose bumps" derives from the phenomenon's association with goose skin. Goose feathers grow from stores in the epidermis which resemble human hair follicles. When a goose's feathers are plucked, its skin has protrusions where the feathers were, and these bumps are what the human phenomenon resembles.

    It is not clear why the particular fowl, goose, was chosen in English, as most other birds share this same anatomical feature. Some authors have applied "goosebumps" to the symptoms of sexually-transmitted diseases. "Bitten by a Winchester goose" was a common euphemism for having contracted syphilis in the 16th century. "Winchester geese" was the nickname for the prostitutes of Southern London, licensed by the Bishop of Winchester in the area around his London palace.

    This etymology does not explain why many other languages use the same bird as in English. "Goose skin" is used in German (Gänsehaut), Swedish (gåshud), Danish and Norwegian (gåsehud), Icelandic (gæsahúð), Greek (χήνειο δέρμα), Italian (pelle d'oca), Russian (гусиная кожа), Ukrainian (гусяча шкіра), Polish (gęsia skórka), Czech (husí kůže), Slovak (husia koža), Latvian (zosāda) and Hungarian (libabőr).

    In other languages, the "goose" may be replaced by other kinds of poultry. For instance, "hen" is used in Spanish (piel de gallina), Portuguese (pele de galinha), Romanian (piele de găină), French (chair de poule), Catalan (pell de gallina), Slovene (kurja polt) and in Central Italy (ciccia di gallina)and in Northern Italy (pelle d'oca).[7] "Chicken" is used in Dutch (kippenvel), Chinese (雞皮疙瘩, lit. lumps on chicken skin), Finnish (kananliha), Estonian (kananahk), Afrikaans (hoendervleis) and Korean (닭살, daksal). In Hindi/Urdu it is called rongtey khade ho jaana. The equivalent Japanese term, 鳥肌, torihada, translates literally as "bird skin". In Arabic it is called kash'arirah (قشعريرة), while in Hebrew it is called "duck skin" (עור ברווז). In Vietnamese, it is called da gà, which can be translated as "chicken skin", or gai ốc, which can be translated as "snail node".

    All of the birds listed above are commonly consumed in the country of origin, so it may well be assumed that the term "goose pimples" (also "goose skin" and "goose flesh", c.1785 and 1810) and all other related terms in other languages came into being merely due to the visual similarity of the bird's plucked skin and the human skin phenomenon, used to describe the sensation in a way that is readily familiar.

    The same effect is manifested in the root word "horror" in English, which is derived from Latin horrere, which means "to bristle", and "be horrified", because of the accompanying hair reaction.


  12. Keith said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 9:00 am

    In other languages, the "goose" may be replaced by … "hen" … in Northern Italy (pelle d'oca).

    Except that "oca" is Italian and "гусь" Ukrainian and Russian for "goose". Oh, well, Wikipedia got that little detail wrong, unless in Northern Italy that word means "hen", which I really doubt.

    But for the word "goose" to be used in mostly Northern languages, and "hen" to be used in mostly Southern languages (limiting this to Europe), does not strike me as odd. I suspect that geese were a more important poultry species in the North.

    Two more details:
    1. a gander treads the goose on land, whereas a drake usually treads the duck in the water.
    2. you don't need to clip a goose's wing feathers to stop it from flying away, you just arrange for it to not learn to fly. I'm not sure if the same is true for ducks.

    These two details make geese easier to raise than ducks.

  13. Keith said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 9:06 am

    I'm having a hard time with commenting this week.

    and "гусь" Ukrainian and Russian for "goose".

    That isn't relevent, and in anycase, it's "гуска" in Ukrainian, "гусь" is Belorussian and Russian.

  14. Alyssa said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 11:02 am

    @Priyank Parikh : It's interesting to me that Radwimps took essentially the same concept for a name, but ended up with something that sounds so much better to an English speaker's ears. What was different about their naming process that one band ended up "Radwimps" and the other ended up "Bump of Chicken"??

  15. Jason M said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 7:23 pm

    The Wikipedia on Goose Bumps struck me even more for the divergent but related words for skin in all these languages. Even in closely related Indo-European-derived languages, there were several different etymological routes to get to the "skin" used in the goose or chicken skin examples. Given that there seemed to be cognates in each “goosebump” equivalent for English “skin”, ”hide”, “pelt”, I wondered how it came about that closely related languages in single language families wound up using one or the other skin equivalent and how these could be traced to Proto-Indo-European (PIE) presumptive origins.

    Russian/Czech/Slovak had some variant of "kozha". If you Wiktionary the etymology of that word for skin, it comes from Proto-Slavic " *koza". Incidentally but not relevant to current analysis, “koza” = goat, so Russian goosebumps are goose goats. It isn’t clear whence “*koza” to Proto-Slavic, perhaps from the Turkic or from the PIE for he-goat and related to English “kid”. But the “skin” meaning seems confined to Slavic among PIE-derived language families.

    The Polish for goosebumps, according to Victor's post from Wikipedia, does not use the Polish derivative of the Proto-Slavic *koza (which is "kożuch" and seems to mean more a coat or skin in the sense of the skin on congealed milk). Rather, a Polish plucked goose has a "skórka" (diminutive of the word "skóra", [ˈs̪kura]), and a Ukranian goose has "шкіра" ([škíra]). The etymology for both these Slavic language words for hide/skin/leather is the Proto-Slavic: "*skora", which comes from the Proto-Indo-European “*(s)ker-“, which means to cut off. This root gave rise to Germanic “*skaraz” which gave “shear”, “share” (=cutting into equal parts) and “short” (=height cut off) in English. Other English derivatives: “scrape”, “scrap”. A Latin derivative is “cortex” (=”bark” and related to English “cork”). The French for to skin someone, “écorcher”, derives therefrom (oddly, another variant has also evolved from this root: “écorcer”, without the “h”, means to strip the bark). French for leather, “cuir”, also comes via this route. Note how close the French — using the knowledge that “éc” means the Old French was “esc” and that “-er” is just the verb ending — and Polish are for skinning.

    English “cuticle”, “cutaneous” [from Latin “cutis” related to Greek κύτος {kútos)] would seem to an amateur like me to be related to “cuir” et al., but the PIE root for these words actually gives us the English “hide” and a whole lot of the Germanic family “goosebump” equivalents mentioned: Gänsehaut, gåshud, and gæsahúð. The modern Germanic “hide” family derives from Proto-Germanic “*hūdiz” and likely from PIE “*kuH-t-“, meaning a covering. English “sky” also comes ultimately from this root via Old norse.

    English “skin” also, to the amateur, might resemble the Polish/Ukrainian “skira”s, but it comes via Proto-Germanic “*skinþą” from PIE “*skend-“ (“to split off”). All the Germanic languages have an obvious “skin” version (eg, Swedish “skinn”), yet none seemingly employ those words for goose skin, aka goose bumps. Well, except in Hawaiian English.

    Then, we have “piel”, “pele”, “piele”, “pell”, “pelle” in many of the Romance languages, though also “polt” in the Slavic Slovene. Interestingly, the Dutch have “kippenvel”), where “vel” is the skin word, and “vel” is related to this family of skin cognates. PIE reconstructed root: “*pello-, *pelno-“ giving Proto-Germanic “*fellą”, which gives the Dutch, as well as English “fell” (in the skin/hide/pelt sense, a word that, frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever used). The PIE also gives Greek πέλλᾱς (péllās, “skin”) and Latin “pellis” (“skin”), whence all the Romance language goosebumps. The English “pelt” also comes from Latin. I couldn’t find how the Slovene has “polt” (=”complexion” from online translators), seems more likely via Latin than via Slavic “*pelena”, because the Slovenian derivative is “plẹ́na” according to Wiktionary, though no online Slovenian dictionaries I checked have this word. In Czech, it means “pelt” or “thin fabric”.

    Summing up, of the PIE-derived languages, there are a few that use flesh/meat instead of skin. French “chair de poule” wherein “chair” is, of course, flesh or meat (cf, “carne”, “carnivorous”, “carnal”). Italian spoken in one region has “ciccia” (a child-language way of saying meat, so more akin to the French derivation). And the Dutch-derived Afrikans has the Germanic “flesh” equivalent. The Slavic languages choose either their own “*koza”-derived words or ones derived from the PIE root that gave us “shear” and “scrape” and the French “cuir” and “écorcher” or, in one case, they choose the option equivalent to English “fell”/”pelt”. Most of the Romance languages choose pelt, too. Most of the Germanic languages choose a variant equivalent to English “hide”, though Dutch has “pelt”. Germanic languages have a “skin” variant, but poultry doesn’t remind the speakers of those languages, except in Hawaii.

  16. Matt said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 10:29 pm

    Incidentally, the Hawaiian version of the expression might be influenced by Japanese, depending on the timing — a calque that caught on.

  17. Ross Bender said,

    November 25, 2017 @ 6:24 am

    @Vicki: I think the proper iteration for comparative purposes would be "Iron of Butterfly", which sounds weirder for sure than "Butterfly of Iron." Also, "England of Queen" would be more along the lines of "Bump Of Chicken."

    Which reminds me of the famous spoonerism "Three cheers for our queer old dean."

    At any rate, the fact that B of C's first live tour was called "Star Porking Tours (スターポーキングツアーズ Sutaa Pookingu Tsuaazu) 2001" definitely demonstrates that they put give serious attention to their English, such as it is.

  18. Yeli Renrong said,

    November 27, 2017 @ 5:42 am

    Derivation of "bump of chicken" from "counterattack from the weak man" seems straightforward: a chicken (as in "game of chicken") is a weak man, and is "bump" for "counterattack" that much more counterintuitive than "fuck the duck until exploded"?

    Anyway, weirdness is good for marketing. You wouldn't be talking about Bump of Chicken if they didn't have a weird name.

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