Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Mandarin Candidate

Election officials in districts with a high Chinese population are debating how to render candidates' names into Mandarin and Cantonese characters. The problem is that while Arab and Israeli names can be transliterated directly, to "spell" a Western name in Chinese requires someone to pick characters for words that sound like the Western syllables.

This page is an example of how it works. Barack Obama's name ends with the Mandarin word for "horse" -- ma. Easy, see?

But the characters retain their own meaning, too, which can result in the Asian equivalent of punning names in English -- like the rancher Bob Warr and the family counselor Marion Haste (HT: Car Talk).

According to this story, Mitt Romney may be known as "Sticky Rice", while Fred! becomes "Virtue Soup".

I like that. Thompson could have been like the local candidate whose name was rendered "Imbecile". Make mine "Virtue Soup", please.

No comments: