I always thought this quote from Scott Pilgrim to be right, since I had no reason to think otherwise:

Scott Pilgrim about Pacman

Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap one's mouth open and closed. They changed it because they thought Puck-Man would be too easy to vandalize, you know, like people could just scratch off the P and turn it into an F or whatever.

-- Scott Pilgrim vs The World

But an exchange with another user made me second guess the whole thing. Was it maybe something the writers came up with? Or maybe they were referencing a widespread urban legend?

Can any of you shed some light over this trivia? Was his name originally Puck-man? And if so, was it changed for the stated reason?

Note: This is independent of it coming from "paku-paku" or not, though answers can glance over that if they think it's relevant.

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    Are you asking if pac-man was called puck-man, or if the name puck-man came from 'paku-paku'? – Kruga Apr 3 '17 at 10:49
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    oh look, it's the least useful lightswitch. (they're standing in this scene.) – Woodrow Barlow Apr 3 '17 at 13:55
  • @WoodrowBarlow Could be something you don't really want everyone messing with (but isn't essential). – JMac Apr 3 '17 at 16:01
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    @JMac: yeah, the actual story is that the scene was shot in a frat house, the frat had moved the lightswitch up because they liked to throw big houseparties but got fed up with people accidentally leaning up against the wall and switching the lights. this tickled edgar wright (director), so he put it in the movie. partial source. – Woodrow Barlow Apr 3 '17 at 16:07
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    @Shautieh I think Berserk elf Puck is named after Shakespeare's fae Puck (Midsummer Night's Dream i think?), who in turn might have been lifted from fae legends? – StarWeaver Apr 4 '17 at 7:48
up vote 155 down vote accepted

Was his name originally Puck-man? And if so, was it changed for the stated reason?

In a 2010 interview with Wired (archive link), the creator of Pac Man, Toru Iwatani, explicitly verified this:

Wired.com: And of course, the game was originally called Puck-Man, but the name was changed for America because someone might vandalize the “P” and turn it into an “F.”

Iwatani: Yes, the U.S. subsidiary said that that would be bad. We wondered, what should we do? And decided to change it to “Pac.” Then, after the American version came out with the “Pac” spelling, we used that for the entire world.

So, yes. The name was changed to reduce potential vandalism, and yes, the name was originally Puck Man, the Wired article actually has an image of an original Puck Man console:

enter image description here

There are plenty of images of original Puck Man consoles floating around elsewhere, as well.

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    That must be photoshopped. No way that console survived long enough to be photographed without being vanadalized. – Yakk Apr 3 '17 at 19:09
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    If that console was in Japan, there is no reason it would be vandalized. – GEdgar Apr 4 '17 at 14:45
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    @GEdgar Challenge accepted. – Jason C Apr 4 '17 at 14:47
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    Speaking as someone who was a 13 yo boy in 1980 and hung out in arcades a lot .... good call on Namko-Midway's part there. – T.E.D. Apr 4 '17 at 18:58
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    (un)ironically enough, from this angle you wouldn't even need to vandalize the P – Wayne Werner Apr 5 '17 at 19:52

YES.

Namco's Japanese Pac-man flyer, 1980 If the only thing suspicious here is the PAKU -> PUCK transformation, consider this website's picture of a Pac-man poster, also featured right above this text. In smaller katakana symbols above the large PUCK MAN title, beginning and ending with stars, is パックマン (pakkuman). 'Pakkuman' sounds like a word that could easily originate from paku paku, and the company itself provides the English transliteration to Puck man.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a confirmation from designers that they based pakkuman on paku paku, here's an excerpt from a Bandai Namco website describing Pac-man (emphasis mine):

迷路に並んだクッキーをパクパクと食べる愛らしい姿と、パワークッキーで攻守逆転の痛快さは男性ファンだけでなく、女性ファンをも魅了しました。

Transliterated by Google Translate as (emphasis mine):

Meiro ni naranda kukkī o pakupaku to taberu airashī sugata to, pawākukkī de kōshu gyakuten no tsūkai-sa wa dansei fan dakedenaku, josei fan o mo miryō shimashita.

Partial translation of the first part of the quote by Google Translate (up to and including taberu):

eating cookies lined up in the maze

Other Pac-man related products also contain the phrase paku paku in their description or title. This could, however, still mean that the origin story is made up and has only been later adopted by Bandai Namco. Although I hope it is sufficient to at least show that this concept of Pac-man being related to the expression paku paku exists as valid in Japan and is firmly in the realm of possibility.

If there is doubt about what paku paku means, according to Jisho.org it means

1 flapping open and closed (e.g. mouth)

There could be a more direct quote from the creators themselves. I didn't do a very thorough search.

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    It's supposed to be a pun. 「パックマン」(pakkuman) is literally the English words "Puck Man" written in katakana, meaning the Japanese name is a transliteration of the English, not the other way around. The pun is that「パック」(pakku) sounds similar to 「ぱく」(paku). – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 3 '17 at 17:29
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    @JasonC: Yes they are the same. Japanese has multiple writing systems, similar to "print vs. cursive" in English but more nuanced. See here for more info. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 3 '17 at 19:52
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    @JasonC ぱくぱく is pakupaku, while パクパクis pakupaku using the alphabet that's used to spell words borrowed from foreign languages (this is not a joke). So パックマン (Pakkuman) is written as a word that comes from a foreign language and is indeed how one spells "Puckman" in Japanese.. – Peter Apr 4 '17 at 0:15
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    @Peter Ahhh, I think I understand now: the indication that it is a transliterated word gives it the double-meaning of both the native concept and the foreign one, hence the pun. If I've got that right, it sounds like Japanese opens up a whole new world of great puns. The possibilities for bilingual dad jokes are truly terrifying. – Jason C Apr 4 '17 at 0:31
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    Pakupaku taberu (パクパク食べる) basically means "to munch" or "to gobble down" and is exactly what Pacman does. He gobbles up dots and ghosts. – gman Apr 6 '17 at 4:33

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