Puns and Idiomatic Expressions

[The script text referenced throughout is from the Chrono Trigger Retranslation Project via the Chrono Compendium, completed in script form on March 30, 2007. This fan translation, thanks to KWhazit, creates "a clearer portrayal of Chrono Trigger as intended by its Japanese creators," that forgoes, "Nintendo of America's censorship standards," and overrides the video game's inability to hold all of the original text when translated to English. Please note that blue text is used to highlight specific Japanese characters and differentiate the North American Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) localization script.]
Idiomatic expressions are numerous in both scripts, but are more heavily used in the North American localization of Chrono Trigger  this was, in large part, for creating a cultural connection with Western audiences, more specifically American gamers (it is apparent that the societal norms depicted are influenced by an American perspective, possibly since Ted Woolsey grew up in America). The following listed down below are examples of Japanese and American expressions found throughout the game.

Japanese Examples

“Great” is written phonetically in katakana:

Lucca: Engage energy charge!

Lucca: Begin energy transfer!

一同「おおーッ!! グレイト!!

Everyone: Ohhhh!! Great!!

ALL: Oh wow. That was GREAT!

The omission of this comparison occurred due to American cultural norms, which accepted the Greek plural of “melon,” a term that was used in ancient times to describe “a girl’s breasts”:1

Leene: My, we really are as alike as two melons.

LEENE: You really could be my twin.

The following cannot be translated in English, but “run away” 「逃げる」 nigeru, is actually 「 逃ゲロ」 nigero, which is “run away” but with an ending of 「ゲロ」 gero, the sound of a frog croaking. This is a pun on the frogs that are speaking:
おやぶん「ん? 誰か来る、逃ゲロゲロ

Boss: Hm? Someone's coming, run away, gribbit!

BOSS: Someone's coming! Let's scram, grribbit!

“Careful not to turn to butter,” 「バターにならない」 “not become butter”, is an expression from a book called The Story of Little Black Sambo. This children’s story depicts an instance where two tigers chase each other, running "faster and faster and faster, till they all just melted away, and there was nothing left but a great big pool of melted butter.”:2
スペッキオ「てなぐあいに、魔法だけでなくすべてのものは、この4つのバランスでなりたってる。 『魔法が使いたい~』とねんじながら、ドアの所からはじめてこの部屋のさくにそって、時計回りに3回まわる! バターにならないよう、気をつける。

Spekkio: Like so, it's not just magic, but all things that are made up of the balance of these four. Silently pray, "I wanna use magic," while you circle clockwise along the edge of this room three times, starting from where the door is! Careful not to turn to butter.

SPEKKIO: Not just magic, but EVERYTHING is based on the balance of these 4 powers. Think "MAGIC," and, starting from the door, walk clockwise along the walls of my room 3 times. Don't lose track, now.

When Ayla hits Kino, Lucca mentions the city-state Sparta, known for its extensive and harsh militarism:

Lucca: Eep, th-that's terribly Spartan...

Lucca: Wow, talk about strict!

The Japanese idiom, 「海のもくず」 "scraps of ocean seaweed", is used for expressing the notion of dying at sea:

Kaeru: Lost at sea along with the Blackbird...?

Frog: Oh! What a tragic thought!

Vinnegar uses “Nice to meet you,” but in very poor English:
ビネガー「な~いす とう みーちゆ~! 出でよ、我がしもべ達! ワシが魔王城から持ち出した宝物を取り返そうとするこやつらをボッコボコにするのだ!!

Vinnegar: Niys too mee chew! Come forth, my servants! Make mincemeat of these bastards who are trying to take back the treasure I carried off from Magus Castle!!

OZZIE: Howdy! You're nothing but common thieves! Anyone who tries to steal my treasure is looking for a VERY cruel death!

Interestingly, Vinnegar uses the well-known Spanish phrase, “adios amigos” which means, “goodbye friends.” This was carried over in the North American localization:

Vinnegar: Adios, amigos!

OZZIE: Adios, amigos!

For indicating obsession, the Japanese expression 「目がない」 "does not have eyes," is used “for being fond of something to the point of being unable to think rationally about it”:
そうですな、王のお好きな物でも 持ってプレゼントしてはいかがです? 王は最近、ハイパーほしにくに 目がなくておいでです。

Oh yes, what about bringing the king something he likes as a present? He has been rather obsessed with Hyper Jerky of late.

Why not give the King a present? He's been known to love jerky...

American Examples

“Cutie” is utilized instead of “cute girl.” This originated between 1760-1770 as an Americanized form of “cute girl”:3
ルッカ「へ? ちょ、ちょっとクロノあんたいつの間に、こんなカワイイ子口説いたのよ。

Lucca: Huh? Hey, hold on, Crono. Just when did you manage to pick up such a cute girl?

Lucca: Huh? Hey Crono, how did you pick up a cutie like her?

“Jump off this mortal coil” is derived from “shuffle off this mortal coil,” a line from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.4 “Coil” means “troubles,” so it can be thought of as “escape from life’s troubles,” or more accurately, “to die”:
大臣「ハッ! カエルふぜいが……! きさまらから血まつりだ!

Chancellor: Hah! Worthless frog...! I'll make a bloodbath of you all!

CHANCELLOR: Stupid frog! It's time you jumped off this mortal coil!

By calling Ayla a “tough cookie,” Lucca is characterizing her as “someone who is very determined to do what they want and who usually succeeds even in difficult situations”:

Lucca: You're awfully strong, Ayla.

Lucca: Ayla's one tough cookie.

“En garde” is a french phrase that is used in fencing which means, “on [your] guard.” It is a common thing to use in the West before a sword-duel:
サイラス「むろん、そうさせてもらう。 行くぞ、G・フロッグ! ニルヴァーナ・スラーッシュ!

Cyrus: Naturally, allow me to do so. Here I go, G-Frog! Nirvana Slaaash!

CYRUS: Prepare yourself, polywog! En garde! Nirvana Strike!

By referring to Glenn as a “marshmallow,” Cyrus is remarking about how soft and gentle Glenn’s demeanor is. “Mallow” is also close to “mellow,” which can be interpreted as the above adjectives:

Cyrus: You're too gentle, Glenn...

CYRUS: You're a marshmallow, Glenn...

NASA officials traditionally say “we have lift-off” to declare that a space vehicle was launched successfully. “Houston” refers to Houston, Texas and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center stationed there. Most notably, during the Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong famously says, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”:
ダルトン「スカイ・ダルトン・ギョクーザ! 発進んん~ッ!

Dalton: Sky Dalton Throne! LIFTOFF!

DALTON: Ready for takeoff!  The Aero-Dalton Imperial!  We have lift-off, Houston!!

Besides these expressions, names were often used as puns and references to culturally-specific articles. Most notably, in the North American localization, Ozzie, Slash, and Flea were named after popular American musicians, while in Japan these characters were named after condiments -- Vinnegar, Soysaw, and Mayonnay (see SNES Character Names and Personalities).

Works Cited:

[1] "melon." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 28 Jul. 2015.

[2] Bannerman, Helen, and Christopher H. Bing. The Story of Little Black Sambo. Brooklyn, NY: Handprint, 2003. Print.

[3] "cutie." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 Jul. 2015.

[4] Shakespeare, William, Philip Edwards, and William Shakespeare. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985. Print.

This page has paths: