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 Google put up a blog post (via Jason Morrison) mentioning cyber attacks originating in China that appeared to be targeting human rights activists. Since entering China, Google has been in a precarious position of balancing the Chinese government’s insistance on censored results with their own mission to make information free and available to everyone. It is a little surprising though, to see their conclusion here:
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
I don’t pretend to know what Google means by this, whether they are seriously considering shutting down their China offices or just trying to draw attention to China’s censorship policies. Cyber attacks can come from anywhere, and pulling out of China will not make Chinese cyber attacks go away, whether they really are government attacks or just nationalist Chinese vigilantes. In any case, I’m sure it will get some of the authorities going. ChinaSMACK poster Python seemed just as confused and skeptical about the issue (note: go to that post to get some translated Chinese reactions to the news):
The reasons provided by Google for the closing of their Chinese offices are rather vague if not unpersuasive.
- Yes, cyber attacks exist in China and some originated from this country, but Google is not the only victim and even its major opponent Baidu recently got DNS hijacked by the so-called “Iranian Cyber Army”.
- Second, isn’t it Google’s responsibility to utilize all its technical might to protect users’, including human rights activists’, privacy? Saying “we will retreat because some of our users’ email account were monitored” is like admitting their own disadvantage in technical strength and persuading users to switch to other companies.
- Third, I fail to see why compromise of some users’ computers due to their own lack of sense in internet security is a fault of Google itself: anyone using ANY email system could be hacked if the user acts like a security newbie, and it doesn’t matter where the login portal pages are hosted (I remember Google doesn’t have a data center in China).
Anyway, we’ll see whether this leads to any real policy changes on Google’s part. The ChinaSMACK article linked above recently updated with a translation of a Sina blog post (original Chinese here) calling Google’s announcement “psychological warfare”, and I’m inclined to agree, considering that the announcement itself said that this information was shared partly to contribute to “much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.” If that’s the case, let’s hope someone gets the message.
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So, I’ve been invited to Google Wave, Google’s not-so-super-secret collaborative editor and communication tool that they hope will replace email. The system gives me eight email invites, and since I don’t want to waste them on random people I’ve decided I’ll just post about it. Anyone who wants an invite can post a comment (Facebookers, click through to the blog so all comments end up in one place), and the first eight can get the invites, if you want it.
Make sure to look at the info on it. Not too many people are on Wave yet, so it’s not practical for most things yet, just a toy to play with for now, but I got into a Wave conversation and it’s pretty cool.
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