What’s in a name? (Ask Google that question)

People in China with what seems to be to much time on their hands are going to great lengths to protest Google’s new Chinese name of choice [in Chinese], “guge,” which some have translated as “valley song” or “corn song.” Not very hip or cool, is it? One news source says the most appropriate name would be

Gougou (dog dog), which is how Google is already widely known in China. The company says those folks are barking up the wrong tree: “Names such as gougou (dog dog) could not reflect the responsibilities of a corporate, brand or product name, nor do they reflect fully our goals and mission.” Other suggestions include Goule (enough), Gugu (auntie), Gugou (ancient dog), Gege (elder brother) and one that may strike a little too close to the bone, considering Google’s concessions to the government — Good Gou (good dog).

Poor, poor Google. What a dilemma.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

This is actually a very important issue, and Google should be listening very carefully to Chinese users if they object to the name Google’s chosen for itself in Chinese.

It seems like the guy doing the explaining for Google is someone called Eric Schmidt. I wonder if he speaks Chinese, and I wonder why he thinks his judgement as to what comprises a good Chinese name is better than the judgement of the Chinese users of Google.

Based on past experience with cross-cultural naming, I bet a bunch of Google execs who can’t speak Chinese just had the ideograms explained to them and decided based on that.

I think it demonstrates a real ignorance of how marketing and naming works.

May 3, 2006 @ 1:21 am | Comment

I will never stop laughing over “Bite the wax tadpole,” personally.

May 3, 2006 @ 1:29 am | Comment

Google China I think actually has a Chinese head, but I don’t know who really has responsibility for this. I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as HK Disneyland’s massive Golden Week cockup (how can an exec not know about his key market’s biggest holiday?), but it’s a bad sign when a lot of people don’t like your brand name!

I do want to add though that it seems that the higher up you go in the organization of MNCs in China, the more likely you are to find a white guy who can’t speak Chinese (much less read 谷歌).

Oh, and OtherLisa: The wax tadpole thing is a bit unfair to Coke. The first name that Coke _registered_ in China is the same one they use today (可口可乐), and at least according to my Chinese profs it was one of the best-chosen foreign brand names.

May 3, 2006 @ 1:52 am | Comment

Ah well. It may be an urban legend, but when I read an article about ill-chosed translated names, that one made me laugh my ass off.

Oh, and then there’s “No Va.”

May 3, 2006 @ 2:01 am | Comment

The one I heard was (around 1980 or so), one of the attempted Chinese translations of “Coke Adds Life” translated as “Coke Brings Your Ancestors Back From The Dead”

May 3, 2006 @ 6:20 am | Comment

Personally, I’d go with “ge ge” – as in, “Big Brother”.

May 3, 2006 @ 3:32 pm | Comment

Or they could use the Chinese term for “Cocaine” (that’s what Coke was named for originally anyway, as it used to have a bit of cocaine in it) – and then they could use photos of GW Bush (with a streak of white on his upper lip) as advertising mascots.

May 4, 2006 @ 12:34 am | Comment

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