In the world of Pokémon, most creatures speak using only their name. Some Pokémon, like Pikachu, have seemingly developed more complicated languages based on variations of their own name (and a few Pokémon weave in generic sounds to mix things up) but it’s rare to find a Pokémon that is able to effectively mimic human language. The few that can are typically psychics that use mental manipulation to communicate with humans or otherwise rely on circumstantial events to accomplish a similar feat.
That’s what makes Meowth so fascinating. Introduced early on in the Pokémon anime as part of the Team Rocket trio, Meowth is one of the only Pokémon who is able to speak to humans in their own language so consistently and articulately without relying on special abilities or circumstances. To be clear, only Team Rocket’s Meowth seems to be able to do that. Other Meowths seen in the series don’t appear to be able to mimic human language. So what makes Team Rocket’s Meowth different?
Well, in Season 2, Episode 16 of the Pokémon anime (“Go West Young Meowth”), Meowth reveals that he stumbled across a female Meowth when he was young and fell head over heels for her. She didn’t return his affection, though, because she had a rich trainer and saw Mewoth as a “Street Meowth” who couldn’t impress her because he wasn’t human.
So Meowth decided to make himself as human as he could. He learned to walk on two legs by watching people practice at a local dance academy, which also just so happened to offer pronunciation lessons. Over time, and with a little help from a picture book, he learned to sound out words. Unfortunately, that didn’t impress the female Meowth, who went so far as to call him a freak. A broken-hearted Meowth eventually left to join Team Rocket (because “rocket” was the first word he ever understood the meaning of.)
According to the logic of this episode, then, there isn’t anything “special” about Meowth that makes him able to talk to humans. Theoretically, any Pokémon that is able to speak their own name articulately could learn our language. They’d just need the proper motivation, a little help, and a lot of determination.
That makes us wonder why more Pokémon haven’t bothered to learn our language. It took Pikachu almost 20 years to finally speak in Pokémon: I Choose You! (and that might have just been a hallucination), and he even needed help from Ryan Reynolds and a pretty wild plot twist to speak in the Detective Pikachu movie. Shouldn’t Pikachu have been motivated to talk to Ash way before that?
Then again, having more Pokémon speak like humans would probably ruin some of the magic of the franchise. It’s part of the series’ charm that they can only say their names. It also makes Meowth special! Of course, maybe Pikachu just doesn’t care about Ash as much as Team Rocket’s Meowth cared about that other Meowth…