Jorge Luis Borges’s New and Improved Pokémon Type System

The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Pokémon

It is a truth universally unacknowledged that Pokémon types are incomprehensible bullshit, to the degree that it would be easier to develop an entirely new system than to fix it. The taxonomy is a mess, for one. About half of them are roughly elemental — Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, and so on — which makes perfect sense, at least aside from Ground and Rock being separate types for some reason. But why are behavioral traits like Flying, Fighting, and Psychic put on the same taxonomic level? How about types that describe the physical nature or appearance of the Pokémon in question, like Bug, Dragon, Fairy, and Ghost? And where on earth is Poison supposed to fit in all of this?

What qualifies a Pokémon for any type isn’t clear or consistent either — Doduo clearly has no wings, yet it’s a Flying type. Venomoth clearly flies, yet it’s not. Charizard isn’t a Dragon type, despite being made in the classical image of a dragon. Jynx is Ice, for some reason. And what, pray tell, is Normal about Chansey? The distribution is bizarre. In the original 151 Pokémon, there are 36 Poison types, but only five Ice types. Types that were added later — Steel, Dark, and Fairy — are retroactively applied to Pokémon from earlier generations.

There is also the much more limited type system of the trading card game, which originally had only seven types. This leads to things like Koffing sometimes being Psychic and sometimes Grass, but never Poison. Nothing about it makes sense.

I collected Pokémon cards as a kid, but never played any of the games until I got into Pokémon Go a few months back, and it’s impossible for me to ignore what a mess this is. I consulted my girlfriend, a Pokémon expert, who said “It’s like how English is a bullshit language, but you don’t think about it when you grow up with it.” She’s a native speaker of Pokémon, so the types don’t register as strange to her. Meanwhile, I’m learning it as a second language, so I find them as baffling as “gh” being pronounced as “f.” But acclimation is no excuse, and it’s clear Pokémon types are beyond help. The only solution is a completely new system.

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The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Pokémon

In his 1942 essay “The Analytic Language of John Wilkins,” Jorge Luis Borges brought a certain taxonomy to the attention of the world. Allegedly derived from an ancient Chinese encyclopedia called the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge translated from the original by Franz Kuhn, it divides all animals into 14 categories. Due to the consistent and intuitive nature of these types, I believe it’s the ideal candidate for a new classification of Pokémon. To demonstrate, I will reclassify the original 151 Pokémon by these new types, and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble figuring out where the rest fit. Such is the nature of the Emporium. Categories are presented in the order in which they appear in the original text.

Those That Belong to the Emperor

This category refers to those Pokémon used by the Elite Four, as well as Legendary and Mythical Pokémon. While the final boss of Red and Blue is your rival, he is only a child, and therefore not worthy of being called Emperor.

  • Aerodactyl
  • Arbok
  • Articuno
  • Cloyster
  • Dewgong
  • Dragonair
  • Dragonite
  • Genar
  • Golbat
  • Gyarados
  • Haunter
  • Hitmonchan
  • Hitmonlee
  • Jynx
  • Lapras
  • Machamp
  • Mew
  • Mewtwo
  • Moltres
  • Onix
  • Slowbro
  • Zapdos

Embalmed Ones

Yamask and Cofagrigus of Gen V are of course examples of this type. In Gen I, it refers to Pokémon that won’t decompose after death, meaning they are already, in a sense, embalmed. Metapod and Kakuna — which have mummified themselves — and fossil Pokémon are also included, naturally.

  • Electrode
  • Geodude
  • Golem
  • Graveler
  • Kabuto
  • Kabutops
  • Kakuna
  • Magnemite
  • Metapod
  • Omanyte
  • Omastar
  • Pinsir
  • Porygon
  • Voltorb

Those That Are Trained

Pokémon that wear clothes and/or use tools are part of this type, since it’s absurd to imagine them doing so in the wild. Dragonite — which is known to deliver mail — Hitmonchan, Jynx, and Machamp would also be part of this type, if they weren’t already included in Those That Belong to the Emperor.

  • Alakazam
  • Cubone
  • Hypno
  • Kadabra
  • Machoke
  • Marowak
  • Mr. Mime
  • Poliwhirl
  • Poliwrath
  • Primeape

Suckling Pigs

Much like the Dark type, the Suckling Pigs type does not exist in Gen I. Tepig, Swinub, and Spoink are prime examples from later generations.

Mermaids

In Gen I, this type consists only of Seel — Dewgong would also be included, were it not part of Those That Belong to the Emperor. Brionne and Primarina are also examples of the Mermaid type.

Fabulous Ones

Pokémon that are not immediately identifiable as anything in particular are this type. Voltorb is a floating Pokeball and Muk is, well, muck, but what’s Jiggypuff supposed to be? We just don’t know.

  • Chansey
  • Clefable
  • Clefairy
  • Ditto
  • Electabuzz
  • Jigglypuff
  • Koffing
  • Magmar
  • Tangela
  • Weezing
  • Wigglytuff

Stray Dogs

This type refers to Pokémon that resemble canines, of course. While there are more archetypal examples in later generations — Houndour, Rockruff, Poochyena, and so on — the following are close enough.

  • Arcanine
  • Eevee
  • Flareon
  • Growlithe
  • Jolteon
  • Ninetales
  • Vaporeon
  • Vulpix

Those That Are Included in This Classification

For those of you who were wondering why Those That Belong to the Emperor couldn’t be a secondary type for Dewgong, Dragonite, and so on — it’s because every Pokémon included in this classification already has Those That Are Included in this Classification as its secondary type, and to introduce tertiary types would ruin the elegant simplicity of the system.

Those That Tremble as if They Were Mad

It’s as though this type was made for Raticate.

Innumerable Ones

Pokémon with multiple heads or faces — of which there are somehow twice as many as there are Dragon types — fall into this category.

  • Dodrio
  • Doduo
  • Dugtrio
  • Exeggcute
  • Exeggutor
  • Magneton

Those Drawn With a Very Fine Camel Hair Brush

This type refers to Pokémon with a lot of fine detail in their designs. If this sounds subjective, well, so is the difference between Rock and Ground.

  • Abra
  • Gloom
  • Goldeen
  • Grimer
  • Ivysaur
  • Kangaskhan
  • Kingler
  • Krabby
  • Magikarp
  • Mankey
  • Muk
  • Nidoking
  • Nidoqueen
  • Nidoran♀
  • Nidoran♂
  • Nidorina
  • Nidorino
  • Paras
  • Ponyta
  • Rapidash
  • Rhydon
  • Sandshrew
  • Seadraw
  • Seaking
  • Starmine
  • Staryu
  • Venonat
  • Venusaur

Et Cetera

Those not included in any other types. The Pokémon expert I consulted found it amusing that this was a category — she did not have an answer when I pointed out that Normal was essentially the same.

  • Bellsprout
  • Blastoise
  • Bulbasaur
  • Caterpie
  • Charmander
  • Charmeleon
  • Diglett
  • Dratini
  • Drowzee
  • Ekans
  • Golduck
  • Horsea
  • Lickitung
  • Machop
  • Oddish
  • Parasect
  • Persian
  • Pikachu
  • Poliwag
  • Psyduck
  • Raichu
  • Rattata
  • Rhyhorn
  • Sandslash
  • Shellder
  • Slowpoke
  • Snorlax
  • Squirtle
  • Tauros
  • Tentacool
  • Victreebel
  • Vileplume
  • Wartortle
  • Weedle
  • Weepinbell

Those That Have Just Broken the Flower Vase

Look at it. It knows what it did.

Those That, At a Distance, Resemble Flies

Roughly analogous to Flying type — however, unlike Flying type, it actually includes everything that appears to fly or float in some fashion. For some of these, we are going to assume the distance in question is very great.

  • Beedrill
  • Butterfree
  • Charizard
  • Farfetch’d
  • Fearow
  • Gastly
  • Pidgeot
  • Pidgeotto
  • Pidgey
  • Scyther
  • Spearow
  • Venomoth
  • Zubat

Goodbye, Pokédex

I’m not going to blame Professor Oak and his botanically-named cohorts for failing to come up with a suitable classification system. Pokémon exist in an impossibly wide variety of forms — animal, vegetable, mineral, gas, data, whatever Tangela is supposed to be, and so on. No conventional taxonomy could suffice. Only the Emporium is robust and intuitive enough to bring order to such chaos. Some might say that since there are already seven generations and 807 Pokémon, that means it’s too late for a complete overhaul of the type system. But I say better late than never, especially with Gen 8 looming over the horizon. It’s your move, Pokémon Company. I’ll be expecting my royalties check in the mail.

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