Chinese Coca-Cola - Poem by gershon hepner
Kekoukele, Coca-Cola's Chinese name,
conveys the message that its taste is fun,
and Tide receives in Chinese great acclaim
since it is called Taizi, so it's un-
derstood to have the power to get rid
of dirt, though written differently it would
instead mean "far too purple, " God forbid,
which wouldn't help to sell it in the hood.
Rui Bu that's Reebok means "quick steps, "
while Le shi, "happy things, " are snacks of Lay's.
There's no great Chinese word, it seems, for Peps-
I Cola, which is not on Chinese racks.
Le and xi in Chinese both mean "happy."
and if to sell a rose you are ambitious,
add these two words, which are not only snappy,
but make the rose fu, lucky and auspicious.
Michael Wines ("Picking Brand Names in China Is a Business Itself, " NYT,11/12/11)
writes about the art of giving western brands Chinese names that imbue them with significance:
And so the art of picking a brand name that resonates with Chinese consumers is no longer an art. It has become a sort of science, with consultants, computer programs and linguistic analyses to ensure that what tickles a Mandarin ear does not grate on a Cantonese one. Art "is only a very, very tiny piece of it, " said Vladimir Djurovic, president of the Labbrand Consulting Company in Shanghai, which has made a business of finding names for Western companies entering the Chinese market. Maybe. But there is a lot of artistry in the best of the West. The paradigm probably is the Chinese name for Coca-Cola, Kekoukele, which not only sounds like Coke's English name, but conveys its essence of taste and fun in a way that the original name could not hope to match. There are many others. Consider Tide detergent, Taizi, whose Chinese characters literally mean "gets rid of dirt." (Characters are important: the same sound written differently could mean "too purple.")
There is also Reebok, or Rui bu, which means "quick steps." And Colgate — Gao lu jie — which translates into "revealing superior cleanliness." And Lay's snack foods — Le shi — whose name means "happy things." Nike (Nai ke) and BMW (Bao Ma, echoing the first two sounds of its English and German names) also have worn well on Chinese ears…
"Clear" is one of a select number of Chinese words that carry unusually positive connotations, and that find their way into many brands' names. Others include "le" and "xi, " or happy; "li, " meaning "strength" or "power"; "ma" or horse; and "fu, " translated as "lucky" or "auspicious." Thus the name for Heineken beer, Xi li, and the many automobile brands — Mercedes, BMW, even Kia — that include a horse in their Chinese names (one Kia sedan is named Qian li ma, or "thousand-kilometer horse, " an allusion to strength) .
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