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The slogan for Pokémon was "gotta catch 'em all". But I have never heard that when I was watching Pokémon in the Japanese original with Chinese sub. The Japanese phrase was something along the lines of "Pokémon, caught!" (ポケモンゲットだぜー). Another phrase was also "my goal, Pokémon master!" (めざせポケモンマスター ).

Where did the English phrase come from?

  • 「ポケモンゲットだぜー」 can be reasonably translated as "Gotta get the pokemon", and 「めざせポケモンマスター」 as "Aim to be a pokemon master!" which are extremely close to the phrases they ultimately chose. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Aug 8 '16 at 16:11
  • It’s just the best catch-phrase they could come up with? – Jan Aug 24 '16 at 9:39
  • @Jan i guess, but still, because of the slogan, people keep calling ash trash because he never caught them all and as a fan of pokemon the anime, it kinda hurts – Dragon Aug 24 '16 at 9:51
  • None of the two puns intended =D – Jan Aug 24 '16 at 9:54
  • @Jan i realize that i thank you for putting your time into this but i didn't blame the company for the catch phrase, the hate on ash just got me curious – Dragon Aug 24 '16 at 10:58
20

Where does this phrase comes from?

According to Bulbapedia, this phrase is a rough translation from the Japanese games :

The Japanese equivalent is Get Pokémon! (Japanese: ポケモンゲットだぜー! Pokémon get da ze~!, also spelt ポケモンGETだぜー!)


When did the phrase Gotta catch 'em all first appeared?

While the previous answers are correct, it is important to notice that this phrase first appeared on both anime and game.

You can see on the North America's and European's version of the Gameboy game Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue the same phrase :

Pokemon Red Pokemon Blue


But which one of the anime or the game came first?

As @DavePhD mentionned in the comments, Gotta catch 'em all is a registered trademark. One of its first registration on June 23, 1998 mentions

entertainment services, namely, arranging and conducting competitions in the field of playing video games; stage presentations; video game presentations relating to video games; production, presentation, distribution, and syndication of animation, motion picture films, and television programs; and production and presentation of video tapes

which includes both the anime and the game. So we can say that Gotta catch 'em all appeared with the general airing of Pokemon in the United States.

Note that the first episode was broadcasted before the game was released in the United States : the TV Show was aired on September 8, 1998 while the game was first sold on September 28, 19981.


1 Wikipedia links : the first episode and the games

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    On 23 June 1998 Nintendo applied for a trademark in the US for "Gotta catch 'em all" for "entertainment services, namely, arranging and conducting competitions in the field of playing video games; stage presentations; video game presentations relating to video games; production, presentation, distribution, and syndication of animation, motion picture films, and television programs; and production and presentation of video tapes", application serial number 75507361. Other applications were filed the same day for the phrase for clothes, food, etc. – DavePhD Aug 8 '16 at 14:45
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The phrase comes from the English theme song of the animated series. The chorus is as follows:

Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all
Its you and me
I know it's my destiny
Pokemon, oh, you're my best friend
In a world we must defend
Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all
A heart so true
Our courage will pull us through

You can listen to it on youtube.

-2

It comes from the folk song Dance me a Jig, which is based upon events in 1863 in South Carolina during the American Civil War.

I didn't want no posses chasing after me,
So I took all the livestock and set 'em free,
Now master's so mad that he's liable to bust,
'Cause he gotta catch 'em all while I'm kicking up dust.

See also the 1950 publication "Sing Out!".

  • 6
    OK, but what's the connection to Pokemon? The use of the same phrase might be coincidental. – DJ Pirtu Aug 8 '16 at 12:33
  • @DJPirtu My only point really is that the pokemon song wasn't the first song to use the phrase. – DavePhD Aug 8 '16 at 12:37
  • 6
    @DavePhD That wasn't what was being asked. The context implies the origin of the lyrics with respect to the series and games. – Makoto Aug 8 '16 at 14:34

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