Friday, July 27, 2007

What's In A Name?

A funny thing happened to me on the way to Bejing in 2008...

This last week I was caught in one of those funny cross-cultural things that can occur which if not caught can lead to later consequences.

Let me explain.

Those of you who have done business with Japanese or been to Japan know that for American ears Japanese names can be difficult to pronounce and remember (they seem so similar). For this reason, Japanese businessmen usually pick an American moniker which they print on their business cards so that Americans may use this moniker to address them without embarrassment. For example, a businessman named Yoshi Nakamuro might print his name on his business card as: Yoshi "Ted" Nakamuro so he may be addressed as "Ted" (but chances are our Yoshi doesn't know that "Ted" is short for Theodore).

My wife and I are preparing to go to a music conference in Bejing, China in 2008. The English orchestral score, program notes, etc. have been translated into Simplified Chinese characters for submission to the conference committee. I am mentioned in several places wherein people who assisted in the score preparation are acknowledged. This means: I need a "Chinese" name for translation.

Our expert translation team thought long and hard to come up with my new Chinese name. Finally they settled on two characters that signify: "Mighty Song" and I was pleased that they thought so much of me to give me this moniker. My wife got her new Chinese name and our music editor also got his new name in the acknowledgments. Everything was done. We were ready to print hardcopy and send softcopy to China via the Internet when...

The sister of our chief translator, who has recently been to mainland China, called in a panic. "Had we printed the score yet? Whatever you do don't send it!" The two characters of my new name bothered her. She seemed to recall seeing them used in China, but couldn't recall the context. Finally early in the morning, waking she recalled, "Mighty Song" were the two characters used to market VIAGRA in China!

Needless to say, I now have a new new Chinese name. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be introduced in Bejing as "Mr. Viagra" This was all fixed up and everyone's now happy.

All I can say is... OY!

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