Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s ‘Canonical’ Cait Sith Pronunciation Raises Messy Questions

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s ‘Canonical’ Cait Sith Pronunciation Raises Messy Questions

The act of already remaking a game as beloved and influential as Final Fantasy VII was always a daunting prospect, even before 2020’s FFVII Remake made an audacious move to reframe itself as more akin to a metatextual exploration of the very idea of remaking FFVII. But when that prospect then has to weigh generations of fan nostalgia against real-world cultural influences, things get even messier.

Such was the case this week when the official social media channels for the Remake trilogy—and its upcoming middle chapter, due for release in February 2024, FFVII Rebirth—confirmed how the game will pronounce the name of one of the several new party members Cloud Strife and his friends will encounter in their journey: the robotic feline Cait Sith. A party member introduced in the second act of the original Final Fantasy VII, Cait Sith is a small black and white robotic cat who, after making a brief cameo appearance during the events of Remake, will become a fully fledged party member in Rebirth.

When Cait Sith was introduced, players only knew the name from reading it. There was no voice acting in the original FFVII, its dialogue playing out across reams of text instead of the fully voiced cutscenes expected of many modern games. There have been many continuations of, and additions to, the wider story of Final Fantasy VII in the decades since its debut—from films like Advent Children to spinoff games like Dirge of Cerberus—that have since lent voices to characters and clarified pronunciations to elements from the original game, Cait Sith’s name included. But there are far more people familiar with Final Fantasy VII that have solely experienced it through the original game than are those familiar with much of its ancillary material. It’s then that—perhaps even moreso when you’re a relatively young person playing something like FFVII for the first time, as many of its most diehard fans were—the question how are you meant to pronounce a name like “Cait Sith” becomes a necessary one for Rebirth to answer. And so, we have the simple message from Square Enix that Rebirth will pronounce Cait Sith’s name as “Kate Sihth.”


“We saw many of you were asking so we hope this helps!” the official Final Fantasy VII account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, innocuously posted, entirely unaware that it was about to set off a firestorm of arguing and confusion yesterday. Some people rejoiced, emboldened that the way they had read the name in their heads for years was now “canon,” some people were confused as to how you could pronounce Cait Sith any other way. But while Square Enix’s answer may be expected to many of those players—it’s a largely phonetic pronunciation that makes sense for anyone who has only experienced “Cait Sith” by reading it in the original FFVII— for anyone familiar with the real-world cultural influences that inspired Cait Sith’s name in the first place, issues begin to form.

Like many elements of Final Fantasy’s, well, fantasy, the game series has long drawn on elements and folkloric beings from across real-world and mythologies. From fantasy staples like goblins, ghouls, imps, and plenty of other creatures, to divine beings that inspire the franchise’s summonable deities—like Odin, Shiva, Ifrit, Leviathan, Quetzalcoatl, and many more—the influence of real-world faiths and myths on Final Fantasy at large since its very beginnings is undeniable. Cait Sith is no exception, sharing a name and general visual identity with the Cat-sìth, a spectral black cat from folktales across ancient Scotland and Ireland. Also called the Cat-sidhe, in Celt mythology it was believed to be capable of stealing the souls of the recently departed; friends and family would stand watch over their loved ones’ bodies to distract the creature from crossing over the corpse and claiming the deceased person’s soul before the gods did. In Gaelic and Irish, the pronunciation of Cait Sith is closer to “Khaet Shee,” with emphasis on a longer “ae” sound—a pronunciation that’s also largely approximated in Final Fantasy VII’s Japanese script, where Cait Sith’s name in katakana is pronounced Ketto Shī.

It’s in this disparity between the Gaelic pronunciation and the phonetic pronunciation Final Fantasy VII has popularized, and now codified in Rebirth, where concerns have arise. The Gaelic language has been in decline for centuries, and since the passing of the Gaelic Language Act of 2005 by the Scottish parliament, Scotland has made moves to secure the history and future survival of Gaelic as one of the country’s national languages. As of a 2011 census, just 1.7% of Scotland’s population over the age of three could either speak, read, write or understand Gaelic—approximately 87,000 people—with only 0.6% of that figure with multidisciplinary knowledge of the language. Although the sharp decline of the language before the 21st century has largely stagnated in part due to educational initiatives, Gaelic is still a dying language, with scant resources, ones that now find themselves overwhelmed by resources dedicated to series like Final Fantasy that take their own interpretation of the language and codify it for non-Gaelic speakers.

If you search Google for “Cait Sith pronunciation,” you’re now far more likely to find results related to the Final Fantasy VII character, and the news of Square Enix’s phonetic pronunciation choice for Rebirth, before you are ones pertaining to the Celt folklore that inspired him, or Gaelic-language resources. The argument over how to pronounce Cait Sith’s name is a very different one compared Final Fantasy VII’s other similarly passionate naming discourse, that of the translation of Aerith Gainsborough’s name, referred to as Aeris in the original English translation (drawing on the Japanese pronunciation, Earisu). Although they’re both arguments rooted in nostalgia, whether or not you call Aerith that or Aeris as she was introduced to English-speaking audiences in 1997 doesn’t have real-world implications, as slight as they might be to many Final Fantasy fans, like Cait Sith’s name does. While it’s not Square Enix’s job to safeguard the Gaelic language, it should at the very least be more aware of influence Final Fantasy has had over generations of adapting a hodge-podge of mythological references into its own canon, and the cultural ramifications that come with lifting from real world folklore and mythology for its stories and characters.

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