Time for some more Pokémon move trivia! Today’s post is was a request to compare the Pokémon move name: “thunderbolt.” Many have written on the subject already, I’m sure, but I was requested to add my own post about it.
In Japanese, the move is called 10まんボルト (jyuumanboruto). It literally means “100,000 Volts.” However, it can also be read as “100,000 bolts.” So the question from the reader was whether or not it’s “volt” or “bolt”? It sort of makes sense both ways, getting hit with a 100,000 volt attack, or getting hit by 100,000 individual bolts, well, that’s going to hurt!
The reason this is even a question is because in Japanese, there is no “v” sound, and often variations of the “b” sounds are used to substitute for it instead. Try saying “boruto” several times repeatedly, you’ll start to hear how it can lead to a “v” instead of a “b.”
So: ボルト (Boruto) is both Volt and Bolt, so depends on the context you are given to determine which one they mean. What context do we have to work with?
Well, the attack animation and Raichu. Why Raichu? We’ll get to that shortly.
The animation in the original Pokémon Green looks like a single blob with electricity around it. So that’s more like a single, powerful bolt. The emphasis is in the power of that single bolt. Now when you look at the modern games, their thunderbolt depiction does have more bolts. But certainly not one worthy of 100,000 bolts (obviously, it could be an exaggeration). Let’s look at another bit of trivia though:
Now, for Raichu:
Raichu’s Pokedex entry in the original (Japanese) games states:
でんげきは 10まんボルトに たっすることもあり ヘタにさわると インドぞうでも きぜつする。
The section above in bold says “jyuumanboruto” the same way as the move name, for reference. This entry is from the Japanese version of Pokemon Red, Green, and FireRed. A reader pointed out that LeafGreen and the originals (Red/Blue) in English were translations of Japanese Blue version, so they don’t have this entry. Anyway, this is specifically the translation of the English version of the FireRed, which is translated quite accurately See it below:
Its electric charges can reach even 100,000 volts. Careless contact can cause even an Indian elephant to faint.
Though it actually (literally) says “electric attack can reach 100,000 b/volts.” So it can still cause confusion, as it can be taken to mean an attack that reaches 100,000 bolts… sort of like a maximum number of bolts it can unleash. But that sounds ridiculous and could be said in so many better ways.
So instead, if you’re reaching 100,000 volts makes much more sense in this context. The part about the elephant and careless contact also leans much more toward volts. Because careless contact with 100,000 volts means even a single shock would be faint worthy! But careless contact with 100,000…bolts? That may tickle, but won’t matter if they are weak…right?
And, of course, as usual with Pokémon moves, it could just be a super pun. 100,000 bolts that are 100,000 volts each! (Suddenly this became a really, really deadly Pokémon attack…so it is likely not that…).
So, with all the above in mind, it is more likely 100,000 volts rather than bolts. As for how this became simply Thunderbolt in English?
Thundershock is でんきショック (Denkishokku), or electric shock. Probably named it Thunder for more appeal. Then, to stick with that motif, did so for Thunderbolt…which was probably a misreading of volt that the Japanese likely meant from the above. But Thundervolt sounds more awkward! Then, lastly, the final move, Thunder かみなり(kaminari), or lightning (but can mean thunder, too), was named Thunder. It is entirely possible they went in reverse order, too. They got Thunder at the top, so followed the motif down to keep it consistent.
It’s all speculation really, just one of many of the amusing move name translations from back in the day! How do you think 100,000 Volts became Thunderbolt? Tell me below!
Interested in more Pokémon move trivia? Give me a move to look into and I’ll make a post on it! I also love comparing Pokedex entries, as they were changed around in the earlier Generations quite a bit! (Like my favorite, Kadabra).
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