Phono-semantic matching

The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries

When Coca-Cola was first sold in China, some called it “bite the wax tadpole.” To others, it was “female horse fastened with wax,” or “wax-flattened mare.” These inscrutable names were the unfortunate result of shopkeepers’ makeshift translations—they used any set of Chinese characters that sounded vaguely like “Coca-Cola.” Coca-Cola quickly regained control over their brand and publicized a new, official translation: Kĕ kŏu kĕ lè in Pinyin, the official Romanization system for Standard Chinese (可口可乐 in Chinese simplified characters). The name is often heralded as the perfect brand translation: the sounds recapitulate the English name, and the meaning—roughly, “tasty fun”—reflects positively on the brand. ….[READ]

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