Do you wanna stump a Snow Man?♫♪

When dealing with another language you ought to embrace the fact that an occasional embarrassing situation is inevitable. Whether its getting the wrong tattoo or wrestling with the subtitles of foreign menu translations, evetually you’re going to elicit giggles or cold stares one way or another.

You can only hope that when it happens, you’re not in one of the biggest pop acts in the country and on a popular nationally broadcast TV show. Such is the case of Shota Watanabe and Daisuke Sakuma of the Johnny’s group Snow Man when they botched up the meaning of the word “snowman.”

The group appeared on the show Nep League, in which teams of celebrities compete in various quiz-like challenges. The incident in question happened during the first round, in which the team is given a question and each member has to independently come up with one letter (Japanese hiragana character) of the answer, which is put together once everyone has locked in their response.

Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it very wrong. Here’s an example from a completely unrelated episode, when the correct answer was “bou ni ataru” (“bump into a stick,” the last part of a Japanese proverb), but instead the group’s answer ended up as “bou ni anaru,” or “anal on a stick.”

In this episode Watanabe and Sakuma were joined by fellow member Ryohei Abe as well as Nep League regulars comedian Jun Nagura and celebrity lecturer Osamu Hayashi. The five were asked to translate the Engish word “snowman” into Japanese, and together came up with “yukioruko,” which has no meaning.

The reason for this is that some members were mistakenly thinking of the word “yukiotoko” which literally translates as “snow man” but is actually used in reference to the legendary creature often called the yeti. The other members were thinking of the correct answer, “yukidaruma” which is the term for a snowman that one might make with a corncob pipe and a button nose.

▼ Yukidaruma gets its name from the traditional ball-shaped doll known as “daruma” which was once a common muse for snow sculptures in old Japan


Those who love to argue semantics will be quick to point out that “yukiotoko” is not technically wrong, as the yeti has often been called the “abominable snowman” in English. However, without the “abominable” part, I doubt any English speaker’s mind would turn to giant cryptids when simply hearing “snowman.”

Also backing up the show’s judgment are major dictionaries such as Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, and Oxford, none of which mention the creature in their definitions of “snowman.”

▼ Cutting-edge CG Recreation of the incident


In the aftermath of the question, Abe was safe either way in the “ki” part, and Sakuma correctly answered “ru” in his position, but Watanabe mistakenly put “o” in the center square. However, Sakuma, being the swell guy he is, fessed up that he was torn between the two possible words too and just got lucky.

Nagura, who wrote “yu” also admitted he wasn’t sure, to which Watanabe replied “me too…” This caused Nagura to jokingly shout at him, “You too?! You ARE snowman!” The booming god-like voice of the unseen announcer also chimed in saying, “This is the name of your group, Watanabe, isn’t it?”

A crestfallen Watanabe then said he’d apologize to his management afterward. However, it should also be noted that his teammate Hayashi also chose the wrong letter, and Hayashi’s entire claim to fame is being a guy who knows everything.

▼ He even knows the key points of Detective Conan movies!

“It’s always the worst when Takizawa gets angry,” added Sakuma sullenly, referring to their producer Hideaki Takizawa, “We’ve even said ‘yukiotoko’ at concerts, but now you’re telling me we’re wrong?! This is embarrassing!!!”

The many fans of Snow Man too were surprised by the more widely accepted meaning of the word. The image of the group as an unstoppable force of nature that was embodied in the yeti, will be hard to replace with that of a buck-toothed comic relief in Disney movies.

“Wait a minute… I was sure it was ‘yeti’ because it’s ‘snow’ and ‘man.'”
“Snow Man got it wrong, but I’m sure most people thought the same way.”
“I would like someone to investigate whether all of the members thought this.”
“Yukidaruma is ‘snowman’ but they are ‘Snow Man’ so I don’t think it’s wrong.”
“I’m a fan and I think yukidaruma is fine lol.”

Snow Man is probably much better off being associated with the roly-poly kind of snowmen anyway. Everyone loves snowmen, and they’re much more appealing than those ill-tempered, smelly ape-bears who have a near monopoly on the word “abominable.”

It’s just interesting that these guys never took the time to really examine their name. Even a casual Google Image search of “snowman” will give you endless balls of snow mixed in with shots of the boy band, but not a single glimpse of a yeti.

It’s a lesson to all of us to check foreign words out before adopting them as nicknames, tattoos, or official websites.

Source: Gadget Tsushin
Top image: Pakutaso
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!