I’ve been out of the Pokémon loop for a few years. I recently picked up Pokémon X and have been blown away by all the changes since my last adventure, Pokémon Silver. Pokémon X and Y contain all sorts of internet features, like battling foreign trainers or trading with strangers. I had heard that with internet connectivity, Nintendo instituted a policy of censoring certain Pokémon names.
Being the family-friendly company Nintendo strives to be, I had heard that in the previous generation, Pokémon Black and White, common swear words were censored; the player is unable to use them in names for his or her Pokémon. Presumably the fear is that players will put swear words in their Pokémon’s names, then share them online with little kids, who are impressionable and easily corrupted.
While I’m all for free speech, even in games, I didn’t anticipate that I’d have a problem with Nintendo’s censorship policies. After all, I was never one to give my Pokémon names like Nasty Bitch.
But to my surprise, I’ve had several attempted names denied by Pokémon X, names that I did not think contained swear words. I decided to investigate the topic further to see exactly which words are censored and which words are not. For ease of reading, I’ve listed banned words in red and acceptable words in green.
Warning: This post does contain strong language, obviously, but is used in the interest of educating the reader on exactly where Nintendo draws the line when it comes to censorship.
I started with human anatomy. Not surprisingly, most words relating to male and female genitals and private parts are censored. The following words for female anatomy cannot be used: boob, breast, clitoris, cunt, labia, tit, titties, vagina, and vulva. The following words for male anatomy cannot be used: balls, cock, dick, nuts (and derivatives like numbnuts and nutsack), pecker, penis, prick, schlong, scrotum, and testes. And general anatomical words that could apply to either gender cannot be used: ass, butt, gonads, and genitals.
Note that in general, these words just have to appear somewhere in the name. For instance, ass is banned, including its numerous derivatives, like jackass and asshat. I personally ran into a problem with boob, TWICE!, though not intentionally. The first time, I caught the panda Pokémon “pancham.” Pokémon are often named after some feature related to that Pokémon; pancham’s name is a portmanteau of “panda” and “champion.” I wanted to give my pancham a unique name, so I decided to reference a panda-related noun: bamboo. But instead of naming him Bamboo, I decided to switch it up: BooBam.
Not the most original name, I know, but I tried it. And Pokémon told me: “You cannot use that word.” What? I didn’t take me long to figure out why; my name contained the word boob. I even tried naming him Boo Bam with a space, but that didn’t work either.
Later, I caught a ghost Pokémon and wanted to name him after the To Kill a Mockingbird character, Boo Radley. I wanted a play on words and tried naming him Boo Bradley. But once again, I was denied. I rebelled and used the Leet character for “b”, the number “8”, and spelled the name Boo 8radley.
However, my theory about root banned words is not applied consistently. So while tit and titties are banned, titty in the singular is not. The root butt is banned when used in isolation, but buttocks and butthole are acceptable names. The root balls is banned, along with ballsack, so I initially assumed the root sack was banned as well, but no. Sack is just fine.
Interestingly, not all slang words for body parts are banned. Breast has numerous acceptable synonyms: bosom, bust, gazongas, jugs, melons, nipple, teat, and udder. You can even name your Pokémon Busty Chick if you really wanted. Other sexual organ synonyms that are acceptable include hymen, phallus, pudenda, and surprisingly, testicle or testicles!
Words indicating bodily fluids are generally banned: crap, feces, piss, poop, semen, shit, and urine. But some words get through, such as dung, the root pee (which will allow you to name your Pokémon Peeping Tom if you want) and poo.
Related to banned anatomy words are banned sexual words. Words related to sex acts, not surprisingly, are banned: fuck, rape and sex. Words related to sexual predators, understandably, are banned: molest, molester, the root pedo (as in pedophile), and rapist. Interestingly, masturbate is banned, yet fornicate is acceptable. Shag is banned, which I thought was a stretch (I tried naming a very furry Pokémon Shag Carpet to no avail).
Words related to sex for money are banned: pimp, prostitute, and whore. The word ho, sometimes used as slang for whore, is acceptable, although I’m guessing because this root is common in so many words that it would be irresponsible to ban all instances of H-O. Milf is also banned.
While the word doesn’t necessarily have sexual connotations, panties is banned. What’s most confusing is not that panties is banned, but that all other words for undergarments are acceptable: boxers, bra, briefs, g-string, panty in the singular, thong, and underwear.
Some words related to violence are banned, like kill, killer, and murder. Considering Pokémon is a violent game, they can’t reasonably ban all violent words. Choke and hit are acceptable (you could even name your Pokémon I’ll Choke U). Death and hate are acceptable, as is the name I Hate You.
Mafia is acceptable.
A few select war-related words are banned, notably Hitler, holocaust, jihad, nazi, and terrorist. But banning these words sends such a mixed message. Holocaust is banned, yet genocide is not. I found out jihad was banned when I tried to name my Rhyhorn Jihadi. I chose that name just as a joke: the Pokédex description for Rhyhorn says that his stomps are so powerful they can destroy buildings. So jihad is banned, yet not blitzkreig. Terrorist is banned, but not September 11. A murderer like Hitler is banned, yet Osama, bin Laden (the name is too long to fit all together), Adolf, Stalin, and Joseph Stalin are not. Likely the names of other dictators and terrorists are acceptable.
Thinking about the banning of jihad and not Osama, I wondered if maybe the word was banned for its religious connotations, not violent connotations. But I tried all of the following religious words and they all worked: atheist, Christian, God, Islamist, Jesus Christ, Muslim, Satan, and sin. The root damn is banned (and likewise damnation, the only other religious word I could find), yet hell is acceptable (I even named by Talonflame Hell Hawk just because I could).
I didn’t expect these names to be banned, but Barack Obama and George Bush are both acceptable. Dick Cheney, however, is banned, though that’s probably because of the word dick, not any hatred the developers have toward Cheney. 🙂
Given Nintendo’s hard stance on so many content areas, I was confident words related to substances would be banned. To my great surprise, all of the following substances are acceptable names: alcohol, cigar, cigarette, cocaine, drugs, heroin, marijuana, and meth. There are dozens more words that I could’ve tested, but so far I have no indication that substance words are banned. If anybody finds a substance, though, that is banned, comment below.
There are a number of words related to insults and name calling that are banned, and yet again, inconsistencies abound. Words like bastard and bitch are banned. An alternate spelling of bitch is banned: b!tch. However, an alternate spelling of bastard, basterd (as Quentin Tarantino spelled it in Inglourious Basterds) is acceptable.
Many racial slurs are banned: chink, nig, nigga, nigger, spic, and wetback. The American localization team, though, forgot to ban redskin. KKK is also acceptable, so you could name your Pokémon KKK for Life if you wanted.
Finally, words related to homosexuality are banned: fag, faggot and queer. I can understand this to a point, as these words are often used as disparaging terms against the LGBT community. Homo is also banned, though hetero is acceptable (heterosexual, though, is not because of the root sex). What’s most shocking to me in this category of words, though, is gay. Gay is acceptable, yet lesbian (and the more disparaging dyke and lesbo) are not. Lesbian really confused me, as women who are attracted to women often self-identify as lesbian. At first I thought gay was acceptable because maybe it was a root word of a certain Pokémon (the Pokémon Nosepass contains the word ass, yet is thankfully not banned). But as far as I can tell, no Pokémon (at least in the English version of the names) contains the root gay. So I’m really not sure why gay wasn’t banned, given that all other LGBT words were banned.
So why are these words banned?
Nintendo has always been a family-friendly company, so presumably these words are banned because kids might see them. This is especially a danger in modern games like Pokémon X and Y, which allow you to battle or trade with trainers all over the world through the internet. It’s a somewhat reasonable policy, though as I’ve shown, there are so many inconsistencies that it is unclear why certain words are banned and yet not others.
What really bothers me, though, is that so often legitimate names I choose for my Pokémon are not allowed. Recently I caught a Chingling, a psychic Pokémon that looks like a jingle bell. It has an attack called Uproar where it shouts really loud at you, hurting your Pokémon. I caught it, but it almost killed me. So I wanted to name it, appropriately enough I thought, Psycho Mouth. It’s a psychic Pokémon with a loud mouth: Psycho Mouth. Yet I couldn’t! I tried Psycho by itself and that worked. Only later did I figure it out: the H-O at the end of Psycho plus the M-O at the beginning of Mouth spells homo. Good grief.
Nintendo cannot be expected to find every possible offensive word, especially considering gamers often invent their own slang without the influence of the developers. As I have shown, there are ways around some of these banned words if you get creative phonetically.
I personally believe games should allow players to enter whatever name they want: that’s how they always used to be in the 1990s. If Nintendo is worried about children being exposed to bad words, then why not try this as a solution: any time you battle somebody online or trade Pokémon with them, all names revert back to the Pokémon’s original name. That would address the concern of kids being exposed to these words while still giving people the freedom to name their Pokémon whatever they wanted on their own private game.
Yet, Nintendo’s censorship policies really seem like a solution in search of a problem. Are gamers really using these words to name their Pokémon or characters? Maybe sometimes. In X and Y, not only can you name your character, your friends give you a nickname, which you also choose. My friend, who is black, tried to make his nickname Big Nigga and similar variations, to no success. But he’s 22 and should be able to do that if he wants.
However, most people that I have interacted with through Pokémon X and Y’s online services don’t give their Pokémon offensive names, nor do they attempt to get around these censorship policies. I have traded quite a few Pokémon with other trainers around the world, at least 50-60, and yet almost every single time, can you guess what people name their Pokémon? Nothing! They use the Pokémon’s given name, like Eevee or Charmander or Squirtle. I’m actually kind of disappointed people don’t name their Pokémon something funny, but that’s a separate issue. In my experience, nobody is naming their Pokémon offensive names or even attempting to get around the censorship with alternative spellings.
So what’s the problem Nintendo is really addressing? I have yet to figure it out.
I did not attempt to exhaustively discover every banned word in Pokémon X and Y. There are probably a hundred more words I could’ve attempted. If you know of any other banned words, please comment below. What’s more interesting to me, though, is not the words that are banned, but similar words that are not. If you find banned words, try to find related words that are acceptable.
- I caught a Horsea today and wanted to name him Hoarsea (not the best pun, I know). I was denied. Hoarsea contains the root arse.
- I did a Wonder Trade with a person in Virginia named ComeDumpster. Apparently that is an acceptable name. I realize that banning the root come would be unfair, especially because it appears in other, non-offensive words, like Comet. But it’s just interesting to see what words get past the censors.
- I had read that Pokémon banned words that were offensive in other languages, like French, German, Spanish, Japanese, etc. This seems a bit too far, as certain combinations of letters in English might not be offensive, except to foreign players. Again, is the fear that foreign players will trade Pokémon with an English-speaking person and be corrupted? I haven’t tested the extent of banned foreign words (I don’t really know any), but I knew that the word Viola was banned (apparently it means rape in French). I even tested it. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I fought the first Gym Leader, Viola. Pokémon X and Y is entirely based around French culture, so certainly if Game Freak had the foresight to recognize that “viola” meant something bad in French, then why give that name to the first Gym Leader? And why ban players from using it? The word isn’t remotely offensive in English.
Wow, this post is by far my most popular and commented post! Thanks to everybody for adding your insight. It’s still very strange which words get banned and which do not.
I went through the comments section and have found that the following words are also banned. Those with asterisks have no clear reason to me.
Beaver, Burner*, Connor*, Coon, Cum, Dago (slang for Italians), Fanny (but Fannypuss works), Fuk, Georgie (contains orgie), Gordon*, Hatching*, Hard, Hektor (but Hector is fine), Hooker, Horny, Jizz, Kakashi (perhaps “kaka” or “caca”), Kukka (French for “flower”), Kyke, Laputa*, Mudso Budso* (someone suggested “bud” is banned, not sure why), Muff, Ostin*, Passerby (contains ass), Penelope (because “pene” is a word some people use for penis?), Pickles*, Pig*, Pik (apparently “pik” is Dutch for penis, though Pikachu?), Pussy, Ritsuka*, Rock* (so many problems with this banned word), Screw (though Scréw does work), Shazam (“shaz” is pervert or deviant in Arabic), Shooter (but shootér works), Slave (but S.L.A.V.E. is okay), Snatch (but this is a Pokemon move, so…), Sobek*, Sober*, Spicy*, Tart*, Thumper (because of hump, though you can get a Steelix from a Hiker called Thumper…), Torpedo (because of pedo), Tucker*, Turd, Weed (but Cannabis is legal), Violet (contains “Viol”, French for “rape”), and XXX.
Some other interesting tidbits. In Pokémon Black 2, ass and fag are both banned, but apparently Assfag is not. Blueballs is not banned, though I found that sometimes the root balls is banned, so not sure why there’s a discrepancy. Mussolini and 9/11 are fine. Somebody got from the Wonder Trade a Pokémon named TittySkitty though from my research, tit and titties are banned, so somehow there’s an exception.
Somebody got a Dugtrio named ThreeD!cks over Wonder Trade. One person was able to get around the censorship with some clever misspellings: Fa-Gi-Oh, Fu-K Yo Mama, Kum Bubble, Alasha-zam, and Twa-T Taco.
Other acceptable names: 3===D, BadAssCHU (really?!), BladeRuner, BIoodyMary (capital “i” instead of an “l”), Butshole, Cassidy (though usually words with the root ass are banned), Dead Soul, Drunkard, FatSackOCrap, G-Spot, GayThoughts, HitchC0ck (use zero or circle shape instead of “o”), Idiot, Knives, Marijuanamon (this one is funny to me), Mourningwood, MYdingaling, OilLeakSUX (suck and sucks don’t work), PelvicDive, P.M.S., and T-Bone.
One player in Germany said that most of these banned words are banned there as well, but some get through. He fought a Rapeface and P!mpMcBunny from another German trainer.
When trading with somebody, the person was shown a F you D-bag. Wow!
So I’m not going to go out of my way to play the new Alpha and Omega remakes, mostly because I still have plenty of post-game content in X and Y to get through, should I get back into the game (after investing 100+ hours, I sort of lost interest. But I got my money’s worth, especially considering it was “free” as part of a deal Nintendo had). And let’s be honest, do I really want to play Alpha and Omega for the amazing story? All the Pokémon are the same as what I have now.
But anyway, if somebody has Alpha or Omega, I’d be curious if you could test some of these words, not just the obvious ones, but the ones that make no sense, like Rock and Pik. Did Game Freak get their act together?
Check out my new post, Censored Course Names in Super Mario Maker! I conducted a similar investigation about that game, trying to identify which words players can use and which ones they cannot. While Pokémon and Super Mario Maker are both published by Nintendo, they actually have very different stances when it comes to censorship!