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Danger: Google's Lost in Translation . . .

Home < Newsletters < Summer 2006

Chinese Google - Gu Ge Chinese Google - Gu Ge

Gu Ge - Valley Song

Gu Ge - Brother Gu
Google announced its official Chinese name to be Gu Ge (pronounced "goo guh") in April, and the announcement prompted an immediate backlash. At an online petition site called NoGuGe, 14,000 people asked Google to change its Chinese name. Only 700 people weighed in at the same site to say that they like the name.

Gu Ge, literally Valley Song, was translated elaborately by China Daily as "song of the harvest of grain." Google officials said the new name projected "the sense of a fruitful and productive search experience, in a poetic Chinese way."

Forget about the PR hype! For many Chinese users, Gu Ge is too boring, un-cool, rural, and old-fashioned for a hip and innovative search engine. For Google, business was lost in translation.

If we were to pick a Chinese name for Google, it would be Gu Ge, also pronounced Gu Ge, meaning "Brother Gu."

Gu means ancient or very old. It suggests someone who has broad knowledge from the past to the present. It is also a Chinese surname. Ge is elder brother.

Instead of associating Google with the impersonal "Valley Song" sung in rural China, or worse yet, an American Silicon Valley company "celebrating" its dominance in China, I'd picture Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and other friendly and knowledgeable "Google brothers" (Brother Gu) creating a worldwide service to help me find the information I want online. People can easily make "Wen Gu Ge" (ask Google) and "Zhao Gu Ge" (search Google) part of their daily language. You can't ask a Song anything.

Google has made the right move in terms of making efforts to be culturally friendly. If only it could get its name right so its Chinese users won't feel intellectually insulted.

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