Minerva; Hypercorrecting "r" into "l", while somehow retaining the "b" from Japanese phonemes. Oh, Takara.

Romanization refers to the adaptation of languages or words that do not use Latin letters to the 26-character Latin alphabet used in English (among other, less important languages). Technically, the English-specific term would be "Anglicization".

The proper romanization of Japanese character names can sometimes be unclear. This wiki notes such ambiguities if they are considered significant.

In fandom the term romanization is frequently (incorrectly) used to refer to Japanese misspelling of English words.

Japanese and English

Any phonetic alphabet is (at best) an approximation of the sounds it represents. The Japanese alphabet distinguishes between fewer phonemes than most. This does not mean the language lacks those phonemes... English has more than 26 sounds, which is denoted by character-combinations ("ch" makes a sound that is not the combinations of the mouth-movements for "c" and "h", but a close cousin), but even those combinations are imperfect; the double-o represents different sounds in "cook" and "spook".

Notably the Japanese alphabet does not distinguish between the sounds "l" and "r", and English-speaking Japanese lack a mechanism for distinguishing the sounds in other languages. Foreign words in Japan frequently acquire creative spellings as a result of being rendered "down" into the Japanese alphabet then re-romanized; in such situations 'Engrish' is a perfectly logical rendering. Accuracy is generally a low priority, as English characters are generally used to look cool, not make sense to Japanese children.

In fairness, we mangled the name of their entire country.

For further information, see: Wikipedia:Romanization of Japanese

Notorious and hilarious romanizations in Transformers

Romanization confusion can either be;

  1. Improper Japanese rendering of English names
  2. Words whose English spelling is open to interpretation.
  • Minelba — Minerva
  • Butt — Blot
  • Clerken — Kraken
  • "Comvoy", used on the packaging for Transformers: Mystery of Convoy
  • Variations of "Destron", including "Deathtron" and "Destoron"
  • Deszaras
  • Freaking Rartorata. Unicron laughs at your feeble effort to romanize his name!
  • Transformers Collection Chear
  • A questionable case would be the various Japanese Mirage toys named "Rijie" (Robot Masters, Binaltech) - although the character's name was based on the original toy's vehicle mode, a Ligier racing car, Takara's insistence on using a romanization of the name that's considerably different from the car manufacturer's name might hint at a willful decision.
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