The Local Dialect

Our forum host recently had an exchange with a panelist which made me think about the words we use.

Though I was born in California, I moved from New Jersey to Oregon (where I still reside) toward the end of 5th grade circa 1991. This gave me a bit of insight in dialects of American English as when I started first grade in New Jersey, I was told by the kids that I had an accent. Which is true. When I moved to Oregon, I was told by the kids that I had an accent, though if anything, I suspect that I actually maintained my NorCal dialect since that's where I learned to speak. As an aside, my parents claim that my brother who is 3.5 years my Jr. and learned to speak mostly in New Jersey sounded like a kid Tony Soprano. Unfortunately, he lost his Jersey accent over the last 35 years which is a shame.

So I'm starting to make new friends and there are several regional word choice differences that are indicators that you Aren't From Around Here. A big one was my use of the word "soda" to describe fizzy sugar water. The locals used "pop" which I still thing sounds somehow quaint to me.

Terms of Art whether for a profession or a hobby are hyper-specific and crafted to be extremely precise. These came up constantly in developing my new friendships with fellow game-likers in the neighborhood. Remember that 1991 was pre-world-wide-web. There weren't yet different communities of kids on AOL bumping into each other and sharing words.

"Free Guy" was absolutely a term in New Jersey for any kind of object that would increment the life counter by one. In Oregon we mostly used "extra life" or "1UP". These terms are still in wide use.

I absolutely introduced the term "board" as a general description for "video game level" to my friends. They thought it was weird and it took me years to get it out of my vocabulary. A few years later, [the word "board" would come up several times on Kris Kross' album _Totally Krossed Out_](

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Thirty years later, I no longer hear this term used except in specific reference to specific retro game especially single-screen games like, _Pac-Man_ or _Donkey Kong_.

"Power up" or "invincibility" seemed to be used by both communities and were pretty generic.

You could also get "the super" which seemed to be specific to an invincibility mechanic like the star in _Super Mario Bros_.

What regional words did your community use in the before days of our current internet games monoculture?

On the topic of guys specifically there has been some discussion here:

Other things coming to mind as regional differences is New Yorkers calling Mario May-rio rather than Mah-rio.

I am pretty sure all large enough gaming communities with ① a median poor grasp of English and ② their access to information concentrated at some point in time in the hands of a few young writers in game magazines (i.e. people with not the best grasp of English and/or formal education and/or professional journalist integrity) have developed their own gaming vocabulary constructed with misplaced, misunderstood and mispronounced English terms (or weird direct local translations based on English terms).

So for instance Spanish, French, German, Russian, Polish, Chinese and Japanese-speaking gaming communities must all have peculiar English terms they use in gaming discussions for which native English speakers would probably not understand the intended meaning. (Hell, I might do that here sometimes...)

Also I know @"exodus"#3’s favorite thing about the French language is we mistakenly have PC _Engine_ rhyme with _vagina_.

Not entirely related but this discussion reminds me of [this adorable story]( which has made me wonder how recent humongous hits like Animal Crossing or Minecraft with a lot of uncommon words have influenced the vocabulary of this current generation of kids.

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This is an action game. Hmm but that won’t do, we need to establish a more specific genre...
Brawler ①
Beat’em Up ②
Beat’em All ③
Scrolling Beat’em Up ④
Belt Scroll Action ⑤
Belt Scroller ⑥
Yo contra el barrio ⑦

① Typical US term used to describe this kind of game;
② Arcade-era term used in North America and the UK, especially in British magazines and British text descriptions found in pan-European packages;
③ French magazines import the word Beat’em Up from British magazines then try to differentiate Street Fighter II from Final Fight by using “Beat’em _All_” (in English) to specify games in which the player character faces many enemies rather than one;
④ British magazines face the same conundrum as the French but instead focus the differentiation on camera works;
⑤ Japanese reach the same conclusion as British magazines but find a different way and frankly bizarre metaphor to express the way the camera pans through the stage;
⑥ The Japan-specific term has now looped around in the [American gaming vernacular](;
⑦ Apparently the Spaniards [agree with the French?]( However, they ain’t gonna use dirty English words to say so. I gotta admit _Me against the ‘hood_ is pretty dope phrasing. It seems other European languages (especially those with a strong PC gaming culture) just stopped at ② and what they saw on their big U.S. Gold boxes.


@“Syzygy”#p40532 Yeah, we were on BBSes and newsgroups, honk. (I promise I’m not just being pedantic to my own experience, in the first years of WWW studies showed the older services had many millions more users than the early web.)

That’s why I said AOL! 😛
But this isn’t the Compuserve/Prodigy/GEnie thread!

Edit: yes I know those aren’t BBSs either, but BBSs were mostly local which wouldn’t have provided the cross-country cultural mixing I’m talking about.

I too am struggling to remember any examples. I know there must be some (or many!) but it is hard to remember slang or jargon from 30-ish years ago, when it was used in a throw-away manner.


@“Syzygy”#p40532 Mostly Japanese mispronunciations: Ryu = Roo

I _do_ recall (and it still happens) that at least here the common mistake was "Rye-yoo". Maybe closer to correct, but still rather wrong.

I doubt it was a local thing (I think this was industry wide) but all first person shooters for a while were "doom clones".


@“antillese”#p40541 but BBSs were mostly local which wouldn’t have provided the cross-country cultural mixing I’m talking about.

(I spent far too long on message-based BBS, rather than chat or files)

I mean, you can call us weird but we are not the ones who use coger as having sex…

I guess this can be weird. However, having been encultured and spent my whole life here to me it's just my normal!

If I had to find an explanation tho, I think it has to do with the tradition in localization Spain has as a whole. We are big on dubbing movies and have a voice actor industry not on the scale of Japan but very huge. Localization here not only involves merely translating but also adapting to the Spanish culture, making everything sound natural to the people native here, which in a lot of ways can mean appropriation.

We are also European and have a long history of colonization efforts, so culturally I'm sure that bears its weight too.

I find those localisms and idioms charming, tho, I generally love to learn how different people call things, and to me it's beautiful to have such a huge diversity in the Spanish language with all the Latin American regions and dialects. In Spain there are huge differences between regions as well, a Galician speaks completely different to someone from the Canary Islands, Cataluña or Andalucía, which is something extremely cool to me.


@“JoJoestar”#p40547 coger as having sex…

you win there... that is weird

I now realize that I should correct myself and say that with "weirdest names for stuff" I meant it in a cool bizarre way (at least for me) and also it is mostly for things such as genre names and words that generally tend to come from english.
I'm just so used to just saying the english words in those cases and hearing the spanish terms is bizarre to me.

I also love the linguistic variety of the spanish language, I'm just kind of used to seeing castillian spanish and the way everything is translated as kind of funny, I guess kind of like americans think of british english.

A thing I've been observing with the newer generations is that because of Youtube, kids are talking with accents and slang from all over the world, and I think that's beautiful. I have a 10 year old cousin that uses galician, argentinan, puerto rican, and northern mexican in a single sentence and his accent is all over the place and thats wonderful.

One thing I find really bizarre is that most US public schools teach castillian Spanish when that's probably the least likely dialect that the students will come in contact with.

Whoa, you all interacted with other people who played videogames when you were young? Interesting!

I apologise for the tangent on the topic but it's something that I figured worth sharing.

I doubt things have changed much since I did this but in the early 2000s when I was doing my Welsh Second Language GCSE one of the things that I ended up writing about for a piece of assessed work was on videogames and I distinctly remember having zero reference points on any naming genre naming convention. The only ones that I managed to fudge were first/third person shooter but anything else I had to describe the basic gameplay loops to get across what I was trying to say.

I'd attribute that to, at the time, the language being taught incredibly badly across the national curriculum. It's only in the last 10-15 years that the language has been seen as anything other than deeply parochial, and talking about modern, or even any non-Welsh culture was frowned upon in the classroom unless it was specifically translated into Welsh. A decent example of how backwards and out of touch the purveyors of the language were is, around the time of aforementioned GCSE assessment the Toby Maguire Spiderman films were doing some pretty hot business but nobody really gave a damn about them *until* the then-several years old Spiderman: The New Animated Series was translated into Welsh and the BBC thought that this was [worthy of national coverage]( (link in Welsh but you get the idea).

Nowadays the language is a lot more popular, is more accessible and has largely shaken off its parochial shackles. I've yet to see standardised terms for games in Welsh as I don't really follow the relevant people, and in part I think videogames are still catching up a little compared to other media when it comes to wider acceptance but there have been a few recent notable examples of Welsh being used in games: Wales Interactive have a few (albeit not that great) games in Welsh, Runescape is full of Welsh, and Terry Cavanagh's Dicey Dungeons has been translated too.

As I say, a slight tangent but worth raising as someone that grew up in a somewhat linguistically and culturally backwards country compared to other Western countries.

@“MichaelDMcGrath”#p40554 The irony here in this is that in Spain they teach British english. Probably because it is supposed to be a “purer, less corrupted” version of English (European superiority complex, for sure).

I remember doing oral exams in high school and having to fake the British accent in order to score extra points, which is, in retrospect, extremely stupid and kinda pathetic.

I find it strange when people pronounce acronyms or mash words together to make a new, arbitrary word. A couple examples:

  • -

    “SNES” being pronounced “snezz”. Although I think it made be mostly a British thing. It just weirds me out. Where I'm from, the first nintendo console was an “en-ee-ess” so naturally, the next one was the “super en-ee-ess”

  • -

    shoot em ups being called "shmups". I just think the word is gross. It's a gross word. Shmup. Doesn't have good mouth feel.

  • And related to that last note... I feel like shoot em ups were just called shooters before the FPS came along. Then the common vernacular started referring to FPSs as the shooters. Did the term shoot em up always exist and it just became more popular or was it something that was coined after the advent of FPS games?

    @“milo”#p40715 Yeah shmups/shoot em ups as far as I know is a completely post doom-clone term. Shooting game/stg is still the parlance in Japan, and used to be everywhere.


    Still, mad respect if those people stay consistent.

    “Hey Toby old chap, have you bought that new fancy SNEZZ perhaps?”

    “No need, Georgie! I already imported a SFUCK.”

    “Oh dear.”

    To answer your question, _shoot’em_ _up_ was a common video game term since the mid 80s. My understanding is both “beat’em up” and “shoot’em up” had become common genre descriptors in computer magazines, especially in the UK. You can easily find frequent occurrences of the term in popular British magazines such as Zzap!64.

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    [size=11]Tr... Trundle down? I learn new words everyday.[/size]

    I believe both terms originated in the arcades from crowds and operators’ lingo. You’d pretty much never find it in Western flyers or advertising, but it would often appear on the packaging of computer games quoting previews and reviews, which is how I think the terms spread in Europe. You also find the alternative “kick’em up” for beat’em ups in a couple British computer reviews.

    I can’t tell you if the term was also common in North America or if your vocabulary got infected by the dreadful spread of Internet. I am pretty sure “shmup” owes its spread almost entirely to the influential website, for instance.

    I do indeed remember that “shooting game” and its shorter alternative “shooter” were synonymous with the shoot’em up genre until the turn of the century and mass adoption of the term “FPS” to describe what were commonly called “Doom-likes” and “Quake-likes” for a little while.

    Snezz/Sness is definitely a British thing, same as Nezz/Ness is. I‘m wholly willing to admit that it’s wrong on every level but it‘s the term that’s been used since I were a wee lad in the playground.

    I have a vague recollection that "shooters" was used fairly interchangeably to describe shmups / STGs and FPS games at that time too. Perhaps that was just in my circle of friends but I'm certain that "fighting game" and "beat em up" were used interchangeably on the playground too. Perhaps we just pretty stupid eight year olds!

    @“LeFish”#p40722 French people used to call the NES “la Nintendo”, and the Master System either “la Master System” or “la Sega”. Life was easy. It’s the next generation that made things confusing.

    The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was advertised as “la Super Nintendo”, so that’s pretty much what it was. But it retroactively forced people to describe “la Nintendo” more specifically, and as always we just copied the British and it became “la NES” (pronounced Ness’). No French person in their right mind would spell out the letters of an acronym if it was possible to say it as a word.

    A weirder thing I had completely forgotten until now is that, with the boom of import gaming circa 1990, it became necessary to differentiate consoles per regions and somehow SFC / SNES / SNIN became a trendy way to differentiate games per region for the console. SFC pronounced _ess eff cé_. SNES pronounced _ess’ness_. SNIN pronounced _ess’neen_. That’s embarrassing in retrospect...

    I already shared the PC Engine / vagina thing earlier. Here is a similar misreading. French people are never sure if we are supposed to read a G soft or hard in English. The rule in French is G before E is always soft (so like a “J” sound). And so, many people still mistakenly call it the Game Jear.

    One huge issue for French is the necessity to gender all words, like in most most latin-derived languages. For a while all consoles were given a feminine gender (“console” itself is feminine), and all computers were given a masculine gender (local term “ordinateur” is masculine). So, Mega Drive is feminine, but Amiga is masculine (despite the actual meaning of _amiga_ in spanish...).

    But then, Nintendo France decided to advertise the Game Boy as _le_ Game Boy. Apparently because Sony’s Walkman was masculine and they wanted to “bandwagon” on the popularity of the Walkman. This became a source of conflict in gaming circles. But it seemed like a one-off.

    Then Nintendo France did it again with _le_ Gamecube. Makes sense, it’s a cube (which is masculine). But no other stationary gaming console has ever been masculine before or since. To this day, there will still be arguments online between people saying le Gamecube vs people saying la Gamecube. It’s the Pineapple on Pizza of gaming arguments in France.

    @“Syzygy”#p40532 you gotta specify where “over here” is! I'm guessing you are east coast? I assume this because “over here” (west coast) ken is pretty popular, heh.

    @"chazumaru"#146 yeah, brawler/belt scroller is an excellent example here. I wish we had more regional variance for STG/scrolling shooter/etc but it seems that the ugly "shmup," which I hate, has won out.

    people do say "sness" in the US as well. I always said ess en ee ess myself. we did have some of the traditional japanese mispronunciations (legend of cage was a big one).

    I didn't talk to a lot of people about video games as a youth but I have been fascinated by the persistence of clearly incorrect pronunciations of things for which the companies themselves have provided correct pronunciations. For example:

  • - Australians pronouncing Sega as See-ga. (I'm told this was down to one marketing guy ruining things for decades)
  • - east coasters saying "marry-oh" instead of mario (I'm told this is because there were just a lot of marios on the east coast in those days and that's how they said it)
  • - ZX spectrum, of course over here in the US we call it Zee Ex spectrum when of course it should be zed ex since it is in fact british...!? that's a bit of a confusing one for me since it requires us to pronounce a letter in a way we usually wouldn't, but it seems like we should go with the official thing there.
  • As an aside, speaking of language, I feel like in some cases here we MIGHT be verging on slightly bro-y language in our discussion of sex and body parts in here - not totally, but let's just keep it in mind!


    @“exodus”#p40725 Australians pronouncing Sega as See-ga.

    Are there maybe a lot of Italian immigrants in Australia? I know _sega_ means “a saw” / “sawing” in Italian, and (due to the back-and-forth motion implied) is also a very common slang word for male masturbation. I have been told this has been a problem for Sega’s marketing in Italy in the past, with local store chains asking them to be careful in TV commercials, etc. (Very charitable hypothesis but) maybe the Australian marketing person had this in mind?

    Wow, you were not kidding about it being decades old.