Foreign celebrities often have a different spelling in Japanese, changed if they have a strange or bad meaning in Japanese, which can lead to humorous or insulting situations.
In Japanese, foreign words and names are written in a writing system called katakana. Unlike most Japanese names, which use kanji characters that have intrinsic meanings, the katakana names are phonetic sounds.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali – Pickled Ginger
The former UN Secretary-General is “Gaari” (???) in Japanese, sounding like the Japanese word “gari” (??), which means “pickled ginger.”
Fan Bingbing – To be hard
Bingbing is going to star in the new Iron Man 3 film. Her name “Fan Binbin” (????????), and “binbin” (????) in Japanese means “to be hard”. Awkward.
Ralph Bakshi – Bomb Victim/Bondage Master
Bakshi is “Bakushi” (???) in Japanese, which means “bomb victim” or even “bondage master.” Bakshi is known for directing the animated films Fritz the Cat and Lord of the Rings.
Qusay Hussein – Stinky Fraud
The son of the former Iraqi dictator is actually written as “Kusai Fusein” (????????), which means “Stinky Fraud”. Without the “n” at the end the meaning takes a shift to “injustice”, “fraud”, or “dishonest” as well as “correction” or “irregular”, depending on the kanji character.
Uma Thurman – Horse
In Japanese, “uma” can mean “horse”. That’s probably why the actress’s name in Japanese is actually “Yuma” (??). Her last name, Thurman, is “Saaman” (????), which does sound similar to “salmon” (????).