The other day, out of the blue, the Spouse asked, “Do you suppose Kyon is named from the Greek ‘kyôn’ for ‘dog’, as in Diogenese the Dog, founder of the Cynics?” I thought about it. “Probably,” I said. If you’re baffled, we were talking about the narrator of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and subsequent novels in the series by Nagaru Tanigawa, which has also been made into a great anime. (Well, okay, there’s “Endless 8″ … interesting conceptually but not to watch. It probably works much better as a short story, but the book containing it hasn’t been published in English translation yet.)
Kyon isn’t a usual Japanese given name but a nickname, inflicted upon him by an aunt and then picked up by his little sister, who passed it on to his friends. I’m guessing, from the explanation in the first book, “… she went, ‘Oh Kyon. You’ve grown so big,’ which was an unwelcome twist on my name” (Melancholy, p. 17), that probably a pun is involved in the Japanese. However, it could be more complicated than that. Kyon may not be a Cynic exemplifying the tenants of that ancient school of philosophy, but he is most definitely a cynic in the modern sense of the word; Tanigawa scatters all sorts of references to fairly obscure elements of science and philosophy (or the borderland where they merge) throughout Kyon’s narrative. It’s hard to imagine a student with such a broad knowledge as Kyon displays doing so poorly that his mother’s considering a tutor, but it’s not hard at all to imagine that a writer who can bring all that cultural background into a humorous novel for teens would choose a name that had so apt (and obscure) a meaning.
Incidentally, I was just looking up a little more about Diogenes and the cynics, and noticed that the gymnasium in Athens where he spoke was named “the place of the white dog”. Maybe we should start referring to our house as “Cynosarges”.