Localizing games isn't as simple as translating a few thousand sentences. There are cultural and technical hurdles to work around, and the involved solutions can inspire some great anecdotes. Clyde "Mato" Mandelin has been compiling instances of this on the web for a while, but a hardcover portion of his Zelda knowledge is nearing release.
Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda is a 208-page examination of the adventure series' NES debut. The book details audio, text and graphics-based differences between the game's English and Japanese releases and offers insight into many of the changes. That endearing oddity you noticed a decade ago might not be as inexplicable as you think!
If you're unsure whether a full book of localization stories is something you'll enjoy reading, you can sample Tiny Cartridge's 9-page PDF preview before deciding whether to place a preorder. Should you be won over, Fangamer is also offering a "Passport" with the book to help players that can't speak Japanese venture through the original version of the game.