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So a random stroll through Wikipedia reveals that Tanuki or "raccoon dogs" have a fascinating place in Japanese folklore. It seems Nintendo often includes tanuki or tanuki aspects in its games. In particular, Tom Nook and his adoptive children in the Animal Crossing games are tanuki!

In Japanese (at least, anglicized), Tom Nook's name is "Tanukichi". I originally assumed that "ichi" must be a diminutive suffix indicating cuteness, however the closest thing I could find spelling wise is "chichi" which seems to be an informal term for father like "dad". However it's entirely possible that the anglicized spelling similarity is totally coincidental.

Is there any obvious etymology of "Tanukichi" in the original Japanese?

  • JFYI, there is indeed a "cute" diminutive suffix っち, which is found in several nicknames (eg たまごっち, めごっち, ももっち). But I believe たぬきち has nothing to do with this. – naruto May 29 at 2:00
  • If you take "Tanukichi" and subtract "ichi", it leaves you with "Tanuk". The only consonant Japanese ever ends on is "n", so this is not generally how most of the language works. (Sometimes it'll do certain things with consonants, but it doesn't really stop on a consonant except for "n".) – Panzercrisis May 29 at 14:32
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Names that end in "kichi" (written 吉 in kanji, meaning "good fortune") have an "old-fashioned men's name" feel to them. It's a name ending that gives the impression that the person is probably an older guy. And perhaps from a rural area (though I'm less certain of that.)

Some examples of names that real people have had include

  • 大吉 - Daikichi
  • 春吉 - Harukichi
  • 洸吉 - Koukichi
  • 政吉 - Masakichi
  • 佐吉 - Sakichi

There are far more than that as well.

The creators of Animal Crossing took advantage of the fact that tanuki ends with "ki," so it's very simple to make it Tanukichi and anyone can instantly understand that this is an older male tanuki character.

As an aside, Redd, the fox rival of Tom Nook, is called Tsunekichi in Japanese. The word for fox in Japanese is kitsune.

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  • 3
    To clarify: is this suffix just currently associated with older men because names of these sort were more popular a few generations ago (in the way that, say, Mildred and Agnes are currently associated with elderly women, in the Anglosphere), or is it a suffix that has always been associated with old men, as part of its meaning (e.g. would a traditional folk-tale use this for old-man characters)? – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine May 29 at 9:41
  • @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine Well, as I mentioned in the list of names, real people used to have this kind of name, so I would say your first statement is true. Whether or not it has also been used through time a certain way in fiction is not something I have any knowledge of. – Leebo May 29 at 13:17
  • ロボとうさ吉 - a manga where the second character is a somewhat jaded humanoid rabbit (うさぎ = rabbit). – kitsu.eb May 29 at 14:15

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