Subject: Female horse fastened with wax Date: 15 Jun 1993 18:28:54 -0500 The Coca-Cola Com

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From: VACSC00C@VAX.CSUN.EDU (snopes) Subject: Female horse fastened with wax Date: 15 Jun 1993 18:28:54 -0500 The Coca-Cola Company was kind enough to send me material from their archives concerning their attempts to translate the Coca-Cola name into Chinese. A few things to bear in mind concerning this UL: 1) The story concerning the alleged mistransliteration of "Coca-Cola" into Chinese is not, as many people believe, of recent origin. Coca-Cola first started marketing their product in (mainland) China in the 1920's. 2) Coca-Cola never actually marketed their product in China using a trademark that translated into some bizarre expression in Chinese. Such translations were suggested by others, but were not used. 3) It is the meaning of the Chinese characters being used to spell out a phonetic phrase that is of importance to this topic, not the meaning of the spoken phrase "ko-ka-ko-la" The article below is from the June 1957 issue of "Coca-Cola Overseas", a Coca-Cola Company in-house publication. I obviously can't reproduce the Chinese characters that illustrate the article here, so I've done the best I can otherwise: Transliteration of Coca-Cola Trademark to Chinese Characters by H.F. Allman, formerly Legal Counsel in China for The Coca-Cola Company The introduction of Coca-Cola in China back in 1928 presented some unusual problems to the late P.S. ("Red") Lewis and associates. The potential market was the 500 million Chinese, or a reasonable number thereof, and the large foreign community in China. For ages the Chinese had been accustomed to drinking their own delightful green tea -- hot and straight. The social customs of the foreign communities had long been set by the British -- and who had ever heard of any Colonial Britisher drinking anything but Scotch, gin, or black tea? "Red" had no delusions that all of these people would suddenly become customers for Coca-Cola. Nevertheless, he firmly believed that an ever-increasing number of Chinese would come to like Coca-Cola and -- he was right. Before long, Coca-Cola appeared at the Shanghai Club and the Country Club, both utter British strongholds but frequented by Americans in the community. They convinced the British that Coca-Cola was indeed delicious and refreshing. It was obvious that the Coca-Cola trademark had to be transliterated into Chinese characters in order to reach the millions in the market. Chinese, both written and spoken, is so completely alien to any European language that the simplest foreign word or term is a tongue twister to the Chinese. To find the nearest phonetic equivalent to Coca-Cola required a separate Chinese character for each of the four syllables. Out of the 40,000 or so characters there are only about 200 that are pronounced with the sounds we needed and many of these had to be avoided because of their meaning. While doing the research for four suitable characters we found that a number of shopkeepers had also been looking for Chinese equivalents for "Coca-Cola" but with weird results. Some had made crude signs that were absurd in the extreme, adopting any old group of characters that sounded remotely like "Coca-Cola" without giving a thought as to the meaning of the characters used. One of these homemade signs sounded like "Coca-Cola" when pronounced but the meaning of the characters came out something like "female horse fastened with wax" and another "bite the wax tadpole". The character for wax, pronounced La, appeared in both signs because that was the sound these untutored sign makers were looking for. Any Chinese reading the signs would recognize them as a crude attempt to make up an arbitrary phonetic combination. Although we were primarily concerned with the phonetic equivalent of "Coca-Cola", we could not ignore the meaning of the characters, individually and collectively, as the free-wheeling sign makers had done. The closet Mandarin equivalent to "Coca-Cola" we could find was K'o K'ou K'o Le^. The aspirates (designated by ') are necessary to approximate the English sounds. There is no suitable character pronounced La in Chinese so we compromised on Le^ (joy) which is approximately pronounced ler. We chose the Mandarin because this dialect is spoken by the great majority of Chinese. Incidentally, Chinese has to be interpreted into English rather than translated, and vice versa. All Chinese characters have more than one meaning but the [four chosen] (depending on context) commonly mean: K'o = To permit, be able, may, can K'ou = Mouth, hole, pass, harbor K'o = as above Le^ = Joy, to rejoice, to laugh, to be happy It would seem that the Chinese trademark means to permit mouth to be able to rejoice -- or something palatable from which one derives pleasure. Not once in ten million times could a company literally pronounce their trademark in English and have the sounds mean something desirable in the Chinese language. The mainland of China is out of the market indefinitely but fortunately most of the 2,000,000 Chinese in Hong Kong and the 9,000,000 in Taiwan under- stand Mandarin. Even the 10,000,000 overseas Chinese, who mostly speak Cantonese or Fukienese, realize that K'o K'ou K'o Le^ is the Mandarin Chinese trademark for "Coca-Cola". +--------------------------------+--------------------------------------------+ | | | | David P. Mikkelson | "My feeling is, if you had friends, you | | Calif. State Univ., Northridge | wouldn't need to play computer games." | | Northridge, CA USA | | | | - Sid Meier | +--------------------------------+--------------------------------------------+

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