Posted in Language, Lost in My Mind, tagged Bing, Chinese, Chinese names, Google, internet, Language, memes, Microsoft on March 25, 2010|
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There is an urban legent that the Chevy Nova had to change it’s name in Mexico because it could be interpreted as “no va”. it’s a cute story, but it’s false.
Now, apparently there is a little claim going around that Bing, the brand name of Microsoft’s search engine in fact sounds like the word for “disease”. And this is based on what? A fortune cookie. Of course, the fortune cookie is right in this case (they usually aren’t bad, but never take them seriously), there is a character 病 that is pronounced bìng* and means “disease.” However, one thing that you can always count on in Chinese, especially with single-character words, is that there are homophones and near-homophones that are just as likely. Lots of them:
What matters is what characters you use to transliterate it. It should be noted that Google could have been transliterated to mean “skeleton”, but the company wisely found a couple characters that could loosely mean something like “valley song” (in other words, a nonsense phrase with non-offensive characters).
Of course, Microsoft seems to just want to dodge it altogether. Their China site has no transliteration of their name, just the name in Latin characters:
Not sure if what the deal is there. Maybe they expect Chinese people to pronounce it as pinyin and be done with it (ok for mainlanders, but what about Taiwanese people who don’t learn pinyin in school?) In any case, if Microsoft has any Chinese speakers in their marketing staff, I’m sure they will never, ever brand themselves as “disease”. Some nasty netizen might make fun of their name, but I don’t think there’s much chance of avoiding that in Chinese.
*the pronunciation may or may not be the same as various English realizations of <Bing> but I won’t get into that right now.
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… and moved into Hong Kong.
I haven’t posted anything for a while, but while I still get a little trickle of views I thought I’d finally follow up on something I covered a while back. I’ve been following the Google China news and as of yesterday, Google officially left its China offices and redirected google.cn to a simplified-character version of google.com.hk. The theory was that since Hong Kong has uncensored Internet, they would be able to provide uncensored search from their Hong Kong servers. That is, until they get blocked, and they apparently already have — at least selectively.
News hype has been pretty big up to this point, and there was a popular response: a group of Chinese netizens put up an open letter (Chinese) to the government asking to have a say in the case (English translation here). Anyway, this topic is already being discussed everywhere, so here’s a few links I’ve rounded up on the matter:
Anyone in mainland China reading this, have you had any issues with Google in the mainland so far? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
UPDATE: ChinaSMACK has some translated netizen reactions from various Chinese forums.
UPDATE 2: The BBC has a short write up on some anti-Google Chinese reactions, slightly unclear though. Also, Han Han (韩寒, a famous Chinese writer and blogger) has something about it in his latest post:
事实上，无论谷歌是做这个决定的真正原因是什么，在展现给公众的说法上，谷歌有一个失策，谷歌说，他不想再接受敏感内容的审核了。注意，这里说的敏感内容 其实不是指情色内容, , , 这里所谓的敏感内容只是指不利于政府利益的内容。但是所谓的开放所有审查结果，现实的中国人有多少人在乎呢？这在正常的国家可以感动国人的理由，在中国看似不太管用。
Actually, it doesn’t matter what the real reason for Google’s decision is. According to the theory that is coming out publicly, Google made a miscalculation, they no longer want to have to censor senitive content. Note, “sensitive content” is not a reference to pornographic content… This so-called “sensitive content” is content that does not benifit the government’s interest. But as to this so-called opening-up of all these censored results, how many real Chinese people care? In an ordinary country this could move the reason of that countries people, but in China it doesn’t seem to be very effective.
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Yesterday, I took part in the Coffee Party‘s national event. Our event was small, mostly just my own family (it was all arranged by my brother, Burr Corley) but it was a pretty good discussion. Everyone there seemed to feel that health care and the economy were the biggest issues we need to tackle in this country. I feel the same way, and I also feel that in the current political climate, the Coffee Party seems to be exactly the right response — a pragmatic group that wishes to work with our government, however imperfect, to find real solutions.
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