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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Did You Know #6 - McDonald’s Japanese Mascot

I like McDonald’s. I’ve been a customer since I was a kid in Toronto. But when I traveled to Japan back in the early 1990s, my city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken Japan wasn’t large enough to have a McDonald’s... at least not until the end of my third year… and even then it was a fair distance away  by bicycle… though I would, on occasion, have McDonald's in Utsunomiya, or in Tokyo at 6AM after dancing all night at some club.

There were standard differences between McDonald’s of the west and McDonald’s in Japan—chief among them the fact that the menu is slightly different.

Yeah, there was still the Big Mac - pronounced Bigu Mako - and all that stuff, but Japan had such neat and tasty fare as the Terriyaki Burger (Terriyaki bah-gah, was how it was pronounced)… which is exactly as it sounds. Tasty and funny. Bah-gah. (snort)

What I didn’t know (because despite my immaturity, I was already too old to really care), was that Ronald McDonald… that redheaded crazy clown of a mascot was NOT named Ronald McDonald in Japan…

Nope… in Japan he’s known as Donald McDonald.

That's the happy Japanese bugger in the photo above.

The apparent reason for the name change was that it was assumed that the Japanese would not be able to pronounce his original name properly, thanks to the "R".

Tell me why, again, that all Japanese fast-food restaurants and non-fast-food restaurants insist on calling the size of the beverages they serve as: Eru-sai (Large size); Em-mu sai (Medium size), and Es-su-sai (Small size). The “eru”, “em-mu” and “es-su” is me phonetically recreating the way the Japanese say: “L”, “M”, and “S”.

Anyhow… because the Japanese can not say the letter “R” in a way that sounds like the English version of “R”, McDonald’s Japan changed Ronald to Donald.

But wait - doesn’t Japan have an R-sound in their alphabet, and lack an L-sound?

Yes. That is true. It's the opposite in China.

The R-sound is a cross between an R and a D, so that Ryu (as in dragon) actually kindda sounds like tduue… with a long U. I have to jam my tongue to the inside left of my teeth to make the proper sound… but all I know is that I say it correctly.

Now… there is no L-sound in Japanese… despite their attempts to confuse me at the restaurants with all their chatter about Eru-size beverages.

So… with no “L” sound in Japanese, you might think that even if they changed the McDonald’s mascot’s name, there would still be a bugger of a time for the Japanese to pronounce it—and it is—so why not change the mascot name to something more pronounceable to the average Japanese person?  

Donald McDonald = Donarudo MakuDonarudo - utilizing the katakana Japanese.

Originally, it would have been Ronald McDonald = Ronarudo (similar to Ronaldo) MakuDonarudo.

Big whoop. There was no need to change Ronald’s name.

As for that whole “L-size” crap… I figured if, when asked what size drink I wanted, I could give a Japanese equivalent. Something everyone could understand.

How ignorant I was.

I would say, instead of “Eru-sai” (L-size), that I wanted an "Oki-sai"… which to me means a Big size… because Oki means big or large or huge… however one wishes to describe my ire.

But… every time I said “Oki-sai” - which was every single time, because it became a social experiment with me (really!), the Japanese clerk—male or female, teenager, young adult or older—they would all stare at me and say: Eh? Which in Japanese means the same as “hunh?” or “WTF are you talking about?”.

Every single time… it’s like no one in Japan could take the word “Oki” (Big/Large/Huge) and "Sai" (which is a bastardization of the word “size”) and put them the fug together.

I am unsure if it was because each and every time the clerk thought I was NOT speaking Japanese, or if I was too stupid to say “Eru-sai”, I have no idea. But they really wanted me to say "Eru-sai" - I just wouldn't. It was the principal of the thing... as stupid and as small as it was.

I can recall once at Mosburger—with Ashley beside me—how I used hand gestures to get my point across that I am a very thirsty boy and want a frickin’ Oka-sai Kora… which, luckily for me Kora/Cola was always a Coke.

I always got my drink, by the way... but now, 25 years later via this blog, the social experiment can finally be laid to rest. I need a Eru-sai durinku.

Andrew Joseph

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