Friday, June 13, 2008

Name That Egg-Spitter

Yep, Birdo again. You may well be asking, “Why Birdo again, you weirdo?” Oh, that’s easy: a combo of debatable gender and occasional associations with unusual sex. Yeah, she’s fun.

Here’s what I mean.

First off, most countries that have reason to know Birdo don’t call her Birdo. (I’m willing to bet that not all Americans call her Birdo, either, mostly because her name sounds fairly nonsensical, given that she’s neither a bird nor a male deserving a name ending in “o,” and that that pink thing works just as easily as a means of referring to her.) In Japan, she’s called Catherine, which is especially weird because most female characters in Mario games don’t get the kind of name that women in the real world get. (Case in point: Princess Eclair.) However, the name is Catherine, at least over there. To complicate matters, however, she’s also called “Cassie” sometimes, possibly because Japanese people think that Cassie works as a nickname for Catherine.

Completely independent of that confusion, however, is Birdo’s introduction in the United States under multiple names. The American instruction manual introduces Birdo as being a boy who likes to think he’s a girl and likes being called “Birdetta.” Even aside from the Birdo/Birdetta disparity, however, a translation error on the part of the people who remade Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2 lists Birdo as Ostro in the end credits. So right there, that’s five possible names for one character.

This mix-up kinda-sorta makes some foreshadowing, however. In the game, Ostro is actually a separate character: an ostrich baddie that often lets other monsters ride on its back. That should sound familiar. In short, Birdo is a bipedal dinosaur who attacks foes with eggs, has indeterminate gender and was once associated with a beast of burden. For the Nintendo fans who read this blog — both of you — that should sound familiar. Yoshi, a more popular Mario character, is dinosaur who walks on two legs, attacks foes with eggs (though they don’t come from his mouth), has indeterminate gender (in that he’s a male character who lays eggs), and is a beast of burden (his debut game, Super Mario World had him giving Mario rides on his back, which he still does from time to time). However, Birdo’s debut occurred four years before the release of Super Mario World in 1991, so despite Yoshi’s popularity, it would seem that Birdo influenced him — not the other way around. Regardless of who came first, Birdo exists in latter-day Mario games as Yoshi’s female counterpart and default partner for various sporting events. Funny how that works.

Whether as a result of the Ostro mistake or not, Birdo’s association with birds — ostriches in particular — lingered. As if her name weren’t already confused enough, the character is known in Italian translations of Mario games as Strutzi, which this page conjectures is derived from the Italian struzzo, meaning “ostrich.” Why this one false name of hers would persist is beyond me, but it has — and in, of all places, the one nation where named like “Mario” and “Luigi” would make the most sense.

An oddly complicated history for a thoroughly confusing character.

Mario characters with complicated names, previously:


  1. Anonymous9:22 PM

    In the game manual for my copy of Super Mario Bros. 2 Birdo was listed as 'Ostro' and Ostro was listed as 'Birdo'. It was a confusing juxtaposition but once we got far enough into the game to encounter enemies that actually looked like ostriches we figured the booklet was misprinted. Sounds like the same thing was done in Italy.

  2. I im A Girl the mario kart double dash says so

  3. Birdo is Male in Japan And Female in USA.

  4. Birdo was AND always will Be Female in USA. BUT now Shes Even Female in Japan. Nintendo of Japan made a game captain Rainbow in which you PROVE Birdo is A Female

  5. Birdo is in Fact Male in Japan BUT has ALLWAYS been Female in America it's Offcial.

  6. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Birdo was born a boy. Later though, he decided to change to be a girl. Yoshi was the only person who acctually liked her a bit so she made herself look prettier so Yoshi would go out with her. Hence the bow and ring. Feel sorry for Yoshi.

  7. The way I see things there are 2 Birdo the Japanese one is male and the American one is Female. Note that in Japan Birdo is named Catherie in America she is named Birdo and so it is so easy to tell that there not the same.

  8. Anonymous4:21 PM

    "ALLWAYS been Female in America"? Nope. Birdo was a shemale in America, back when no one bothered looking for every little thing including instruction booklet backstories looking for things to get offended over, but Nintendo of America backpedaled on that once people started getting more and more into looking for things to get offended over. It's kind of a weird thing for them to have included in the first place though. At least Poison had some sort of (faulty) logic behind having the character go all Crying Game.

  9. Since Yoshi's Island is populated by a number of Subcon residents, I think it suggests that Mario 2's dream is inspired by things Mario saw there as a baby. Naturally, Birdo is a very confused "dream version" of Yoshi!