The New York Times has published an interactive feature that doubles as Rosetta Stone lessons for continent-hopping businessmen, with a very 21st-century piece in the World section on the pronunciation and meanings of Western brand names in Chinese. The piece focuses on the fascinating business of recognizably rebranding companies like Lay's potato chips not only to sound like the English pronunciation but also to adopt a positive connotation in the literal translation. It's actually quite a fun read:
After a hard day's labor, your average upscale Beijinger likes nothing more than to shuck his dress shoes for a pair of Enduring and Persevering, rev up his Precious Horse and head to the pub for a tall, frosty glass of Happiness Power. Or, if he's a teetotaler, a bottle of Tasty Fun.
To Westerners, that's Nike, BMW, Heineken and Coca-Cola, respectively. And those who wish to snicker should feel free: the companies behind these names are laughing too — all the way to the bank.
Accompanying the article are a dozen recordings of the proper pronunciations of these companies. Cycling through each of them and rehearsing the words quietly to yourself makes for a really terrific Friday afternoon activity, especially in you're stuck in the office on Veteran's Day. Lay's, by the way, is pronounced "Le shi" in Chinese. It means "happy things."