Friday, April 23, 2010

Japan Improves Upon the Common Axolotl

Of course, axolots are cuteness incarnate. This is not a debatable point. To deny that these often-smiling, baby-faced amphibians are anything other than adorable is to admit that your brain is diseased or your eyes don’t work or you’ve somehow associated the word axolotl with some other creature. Please, if you doubt me, examine these images of these real-life Pokémon doing the one task they have in life: frolicking carelessly in their watery homes.

However, for axolotl advocates and deniers alike, I have news: As it always does, Japan has managed to amplify natural cuteness levels to dangerous new degrees, for in this fantastical island nation what we call axolotl is instead known as the wooper looper. An improvement? Yes. Should we have expected anything else from Japan. Certainly not. Japan’s top export is cuteness, after all. I’m unclear exactly why this specific term would have been applied to this animal, as the internet doesn’t seem to be hiding an etymology anywhere. I’m also not sure that wooper looper originated in Japan, where it would be pronounced something like “oopa roopa,” though one site claims that the term arose from a Japanese marketing campaign that aimed to get people to purchase and raise these critters. That site, however, is a Pokémon wiki, so I’m not sure how believable its non-Pokémon-specific information should be. And, yes, there is apparently an axolotl-inspired Pokémon, Wooper.

Note to Japan: Removing a thing’s legs is not a good way to make it seem cuter.

Since we’re on the subject, the word axolotl comes from Spanish via Nahuatl, from atl, “water,” and xolotl, “slippery or wrinkled one, servant or slave.” I also enjoy that any language has a word that can mean “slippery one.”

Weird animals, previously:

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