I know a lot us believe we should pronounce Final Fantasy characters “the Japanese way”. The characters originate from Japan, after all. I guess, if that’s how they pronounce it, that should settle it, right?
In this guide, some of the words are as we expect to sound (i.e. “Gogo”). Others are a bit less intuitive (i.e. Rufus Shinra – “Roo-fows” instead of “Roo-fuss”). Two notable pronunciations are “Tifa” and “Tidus”, pronounced as “Tee-fa” and “Tee-dus”, respectively.
Once you understand the symbology behind Tidus, it’s easier to understand and accept the pronunciation. Still, we’re inclined to think of Titus, which is Latin in origin. And I guess thanks to Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, “Tee-dus” is now canon (unless that game is not canon). But should we pronounce Tidus as “Tee-dus”? And why should it?
And what about Tifa, which sounds like a shortened version of “Tiffany”. “Tee-fa” is now canon due to the Final Fantasy VII Compilation. But why should we call her “Tee-Fa”? That sounds like…well, Engrish.
Isn’t it interesting that so many of us from Western backgrounds are very adamant about this? From a Western standpoint, if you take the word “tin” and you take the word “tea”, one’s got an “i” and one’s got an “e”. Logically, according to Western languages that are variants of Latin, it should follow for “Tifa” to be pronounced “(T)-if-a”.
I guess there are some exceptions to the rule, like the Italian-based Solfège (🎼”do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-da”). But, like “Psychotic” says, I can’t think of any words that begin with “ti” but pronounced “tea”. Look through the dictionary, and you’ll see an overwhelming amount of “ti” words that sound like “ty” or “tie” (“tidy” “tight” “tigers”
get “tired”, etc).
Why does Tidus sound like this? Because in Japan, the i sound is pronounce like an “ee”.
The letter “i” almost always represents a sound quite like the American “ee” in “feet”, not “i” in “fit”. I said “almost”. There is one minor exception, which will be explained later.
In English, the “i” in “sit” and the “i” in “site” represent quite different vowels. This type of wild variation never occurs in Japanese.
They say “pee-zza”; we do too. They don’t say “Ty-dus”, because the Japanese language doesn’t have that type of variation.
The basic units of the Japanese writing system are syllables. Standard Japanese uses 100 distinct syllables. Of these, 5 are single vowels, 62 are consonants combined with a vowel, and 53 are consonants combined with ‘y’ plus a vowel.
We have a much greater depth of variation in English due to loan words. So why not appreciate the full scope of how we pronounce words?
It gets even more specific. For example, how do you pronounce “Ramuh”? We think it should be “Rah-moo”. I’ve been saying “Rah-mah” for years. Why? Probably because the “muh” sounds like the “ma” in “much” (“muh” noodles…Ra-“muh” noodles). But the Japanese pronounce “u” sounds as “oo”. So the “muh” sounds like “moo”. Same with “Ba-ha-moot”. I’m always going to say “Ba-ha-maat” due to habit. Ifrit is “Ee-freet”, but those “i”s, especially the capitalized “I” at the beginning tempts our sensibilities otherwise.
The Japanese say “Tee-dus” and Westerners say “Ty-dus”. But the irony is that Tidus looks like a Western Eurasian, more evidence he had a Western design. So it’s most likely they gave him a Western name. Yet they pronounced it the Japanese way. Why? Well, that’s really the only way they know. It works for them and it’s fine.
I can’t help but think we’re conceding to Japanese pronunciations of Western translations.
Whatever happened to calling out Engrish?
Which is essentially what it is.
They are pronouncing English names the Japanese way because this is how their language is (nothing wrong with it). By accepting their pronunciation as the correct one, we’re now the ones who are essentially speaking…Engrish.
Maybe we should think about words/names like “Tidus” in the same way we think of “read”. Depending on whether it’s past or present tense, it could pronounce it as “red” (past tense) and “reed” (future tense). In the past you have “red” something, in the future, you will “reed” something. Maybe we can do the same for Tidus. Depending on the Westerner or Japanese speaker, it can be “Ty-dus” and “Tee-dus” respectively. Whichever you’re most comfortable with should determine this.
But in truth, go with whatever way you want to pronounce it. I’d say no harm, no foul. When in Rome, do as the Romans do…who also play Final Fantasy and are big fans of Japanese pronunciations.
As for Aerith and Aeris? Well, I won’t start on this one. That’s a story for another day.