I’ve been getting some heat over the past short while when I talk about my Galaga arcade, because there are 2 different camps when it comes to pronouncing the word Galaga. You can either emphasize the first syllable:
Or you can emphasize the second syllable:
I’ve always emphasized the second syllable (ga-LAG-a). However, the Avengers movie came out this year, and Robert Downey Jr. (who plays Iron Man in the movie) pronounced the game as GAL-a-ga when it showed up in the movie. So now, most people say something along the lines of “oh you mean GAL-a-ga” when I mention my ga-LAG-a machine. Annoying as hell to say the least…..
So I had to find out what the “official” pronunciation of Galaga was (I actually lost sleep over this stupid thing).
An exhaustive search of the Internet turned up three things about the pronunciation of Galaga:
- Namco doesn’t give a damn about how it is pronounced.
- There is roughly a 50/50 split between the two camps on Internet forums - with most acknowledging that they hear GAL-a-ga more often than ga-LAG-a.
- Most videos on Youtube (even ones from the early 80s) pronounce it GAL-a-ga.
No answer there. So I thought for a while and came up with a good solution. Namco likely communicated using their preferred pronunciation of Galaga with Midway (the company who distributed the game in North America). So, if I could talk with someone who worked for Midway distributing Galaga machines back in 1981 and ask them how it was pronounced at the time, I’d have a pretty reliable answer and could then put the issue to rest.
The problem was a bit harder than I anticipated because:
- 1981 was a long time ago, and many of these people are dead or retired or senile.
- Those who aren’t dead or retired or senile, probably don’t spend much time on the Internet.
After 2 weeks of searching arcade forums (and pinball forums), I found someone whose father (Walter Perks) was a Midway distributor for 4 states in the Southeastern U.S. from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. I got his number and called him at home. Long story short, he was a super nice guy, and not only gave me the answer I was looking for, but TOLD ME WHY! Awesome!
The correct pronunciation of Galaga emphasizes the second syllable (ga-LAG-a) for one simple reason - it was the direct successor to Galaxian (which was also pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable ga-LAX-i-an). He says everyone at Midway pronounced it that way from the time it was introduced on their channel sales call, and arcade operators did as well in order to keep related/similar games straight. However, he also mentioned that within a few years afterwards, the GAL-a-ga pronunciation became so popular among customers (for whatever reason) that most people started pronouncing it GAL-a-ga.
Good enough proof for me. I think it is best to pronounce it the original way: ga-LAG-a. Plus, I’m quite happy to have been pronouncing it the correct way my entire life. For those who have been pronouncing it as GAL-a-ga, I offer my sincere apologies ;-)