So what's a Deku, anyway?
Every Zelda game has had Deku trees and Deku sticks and Deku nuts. Is this just an arbitrary name that Miyamoto made up while he was drunk, or is this a real Japanese plant? I'm looking at you, Kitsune! :)
Hmmm...well, the closest thing I think of are Deku dolls, which are basically just wooden dolls. They very much look like the same consistency of wood as is shown in the Zelda games -- Deku has a kind of whorley, maple and brown swirl to its grain. Not sure what you might call it in English, or even it might be peculiar to Japan. Sorry to say I'm not much for herbology. It isn't an obvious reference, I'll tell you that, but the first thing a Japanese would think is, "Ah, wood, I remember seeing that somewhere before." (Places, people, in fact there's a place near Biwa named Deku...hmmm...all of these have that same wood style consistency to either its color or look, even if it isn't wood.)
A second thing is the sound itself. In Japanese, Desu is the polite form of the word of existence kind of like "am" or "is" in English. When you are young you often mispronounce Desu as Dechu, in a cute kid's way. This is before it becomes so common in speech that its gets contracted to a simple sound of "dess." When you want to suck up to someone, you might still pronounce it though, like, "O! Sore wa sore wa ookii deSU!" "Good Lord, that's big!" (Yeah, I have a dirty mind, so what?) In this case you really aren't supposed to say "dess" let alone "deSU." Its terribly obvious, just like saying, "Duh" to someone in English isn't terribly witty. Also, some people think its clever to say "su" at the end of the sentences whether its needed or not in a slangy way, these people sound like valley girls or surfer dudes in English might when they do that. Last, but not least (I'm getting to a point here! ;)) the last character of Deku the "ku" is very similar to the kanji for "idiot" "stupid" or "fool." So since Zelda's use of Deku's, people have taken on the name as a kind of nickname for a lovably, stupid, cute person, and it all is a mixture of the sound of the word and the meaning of the kanji. Note though, that you didn't see this happen until Zelda started having Deku's.
Sorry it took so long to explain, but I thought you might want an example of how games influence or are influenced by youth culture over here.
On a mostly unrelated note, I still can't help but think of Penny Arcade's strip about Wind Waker (and every other Zelda game) whenever I play anything Zelda. Walking around, finding rupees in just random places (jars and the grass, mostly) is just funny.
It's consistent with Miyamoto's designs throughout his career. The whole boyhood exploration thing he's often talked about. How he would go on excursions and find secret places and explore caves, etc. With Super Mario Bros., he first brought that to games, the whole "You never know what might be in there" thing where breaking blocks often revealed powerups and coins. Zelda just does it in a slightly more realistic world.
Sure is fun too. Making it relatively easy to explore and find these sorts of secrets has always been the hallmark of Miyamoto designs. That and the, "If you see it, you can probably touch it." idea of game design where the player may see some unreachable ledge early on, but the seed is planted that you should be able to get there somehow. Metroid thrives on this very premise.
Thanks, that was very interesting! I really have to learn Japanese some day, it's irritating to see all those words in video games without knowing what they mean...
Originally Posted by Kitsune
My dictionary says "deku" is (per Kitsune) a doll or a puppet made out of wood, then throws in an additional note that "deku no bo" is a blockhead, if that's useful. (I haven't played the Zelda games, so I wouldn't know).
Also, Christoph, FWIW, I think Japanese is much easier to learn than most people think it is--I've learned a few languages, and Japanese was one of the easier ones.