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Nissan Bluebird

Home < Newsletters

Lan Niao

Qing Niao

April Newsletter
Chinese Naming: Danger + Opportunity Newsletter April Main Page
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Related Terms
Mandarin. The official language in China and Taiwan, also spoken by about 1 in every 5 people on earth.
Minnan, as known as Hokkien or Taiwanese. A major Chinese language spoken by the wealthiest Chinese populations: in China in the coastal Fujian province, in Taiwan and in many overseas Chinese communities. Around 45 million Chinese speak Minnan. (SIL International 2000)
What's with the grid? The grid you'll notice behind the Chinese characters is used by school children learning calligraphy.
Nissan's Bluebird (sedan) is translated as Lan-Niao in Chinese. In Mandarin, lan means blue and niao means bird-no problem. However, the reading of the characters for lan niao in the Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese) is lan jiao, which also sounds like the word for male genitals. It's rather complicated, but although blue in Minnan is lan and bird is jiao, the term lan jiao is bad, to put it mildly.

A better translation might be Qing Niao. Qing is another character for blue. Qing-niao distracts Minnan speakers from the negative association and is also more poetic. The word qing-niao appeared in a famous Untitled poem by Li Shang-yin (813-858), a Tang Dynasty poet. It also refers to a legendary messenger in Chinese mythology who served the goddess Queen Mother of the West. "The messenger" is in our opinion a better association for a car than the male genitals.

Translated coined names are not the only ones that need to be carefully examined for linguistic and culture appropriateness. Even "simple words" can create big problems when overlooked.


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