In a lather: The accent in Pokémon

It wouldn’t be surprising if a group of editors got worked up about an accent in a word, but these are strange times we’re living in when members of the public get excited about such things.

With the widespread enthusiasm for the new augmented-reality game Pokémon GO, the Associated Press must have known what it was getting into:

You can just imagine the firestorm this unleashed. Anyhoo, perhaps you’re wondering why there’s an accent in the word at all. Maybe, like me, you’ve had the same feeling when you’ve seen saké used instead of sake, for a type of Japanese alcohol. This dissonance is created by the use of a French accent in a Japanese word.

Japan Style Sheet explains: “In spite of the recognized anglicization of words like no [should have a macron over the O!] (as No or Noh) and sake, it is often a good idea to identify them in some way—by italicizing or, for instance, by placing an accent on the final e in saké—because they are so easily confused with other English words.”

The AP’s reasoning about “garble” doesn’t seem that strange to me; at a previous job, we had issues with accents being scrambled in headline styles, and this can happen on the web too.

So yes, the é is signalling to you that you shouldn’t pronounce it “poke-mon”. But if technological constraints keep you from using the é, the AP supports you.

Have fun out there, and whether you’re reading this on your phone or playing Pokémon GO, be sure to keep your head up!

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