This post’s title is the translation of some verses popularly attributed to the writer Ryokuu Satô (1868-1904, “Gyoete towa ore no koto kato Gête ii”). At one time, the name of the great German writer’s name was transcribed in different ways in Japanese, giving rise to the coexistence of a variety of transcriptions. Nowadays, the names of the classic writers have established transcriptions; for example, that of Goethe is ゲーテ (‘Gête’).
Some foreign proper names have sounds that are not found in Japanese and are hard to transcribe in that language. Japanese has five vowels and in many cases, there is a vowel at the end of a syllable. If there is a consonant and there is no vowel after it, the Japanese add one, such asアドリアナ (‘Adoriana’) or セルヒオ (‘Seruhio’). And they often use an ‘R’ instead of an ‘L’, which doesn’t exist in Japanese, such as in パブロ (‘Paburo’) or ルシア (‘Rushia’). There are some names that are really difficult to transcribe into Japanese, for example, Ramon Llull’s surname or Lloll Bertran’s first name, and the Japanese also find them difficult to pronounce. For the former, we have found three types of transcription on the Web: リュイ (‘Ryui’), リュル (‘Ryuru’) and ルル (‘Ruru’). The surname Puigdemont is transcribed mainly as ‘Puchidemon’ (プチデモン) or ‘Putchidamon’ (プッチダモン). Some people comment that ‘Puchidemon’ is a “kawaii” (‘sweet, adorable’) surname and make wordplays relating it with an imp (Puchi ‘little’ + demon ‘devil’).
And if we are unable to deduce how a foreign name is read, there are a number of dictionaries available of Western, Chinese and Korean proper names, which can be consulted in alphabetical order, that of the Japanese system of syllables, and also by symbols, in the case of the latter two languages.