The Pull of Pandas

An interesting Japanese expression I came across today is 客寄せパンダ (kyakuyose panda), which means a star attraction, draw card or crowd puller, or literally “visitor-gathering-panda” [source]. Originally it referred to pandas, which tend to be popular attractions in zoos and pull in many visitors, and came to refer to other crowd pulling attractions [source].


客寄せパンダ is made up of words of Chinese, Japanese and English origin and is an example of 混種語 (konshugo), or a hybrid word that combines elements from several languages.

  • (kyaku) was borrowed from Chinese and means guest, visitor or customer.
  • 寄せ (yose) is a native Japanese word and means gathering, collection, coming together, or the last moves or endgame in chess, go or other games.
  • パンダ (panda) comes from English.

The English word panda was borrowed from French, which possibly comes from nigálya-pónya, a name for the red panda used in Nepal and Sikkim, which may come from the Nepali निँगाले (nĩgāle – a species of bamboo), and the Tibetan name for the same animal: ཕོ་ཉ (pho nya, or literally “messenger”) – quite a hyrid word [source].


3 thoughts on “The Pull of Pandas

  1. It is interesting that the red panda even got “panda” associated with its name, since it appears to be somewhat related to raccoons and weasels rather than to pandas.

  2. Simon, ‘panada‘ is “A simple dish consisting of bread boiled to a pulp and flavoured” (OED). Too many a‘s in your final sentence!

  3. I find it funny that when I looked on Google Translate, almost all the languages had the same form for panda. I expected that Chinese would be the same since it more or less looks like it could be Chinese (and they are native to China) but oddly enough the word in Chinese is 熊 猫 (xiong mao)
    or “bear cat”. Go figure!

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