What's in a name: Google in Chinese

Not huge news, but Google's announcement this week of their official Chinese name, 谷歌 [Gu Ge, meaning valley song], has provoked a lot of discussion across Chinese blogs. While most people will likely continue using the particular pronounciation—there are several—of the English name they've grown most accustomed to, that one interpretation of the new moniker suggests something along the lines of rejoicing after a bumper harvest, in a culture that emphasizes subtlety many here say Google could have done better. Here are some snippets of conversation:



I guess for foreigners the ‘谷’ character [phonetically pronounced ‘goo,’ meaning valley or grain] has a bit of ‘古’ [also ‘goo,’ but meaning ancient] feeling to it, but it reminds me of someplace idyllic like Passionless Valley [a hidden valley ruled by villains in martial arts novelist Louis Cha‘s Return of the Condor Heroes].

It might just be a matter of perception; before Baidu [百度, the largest Chinese search engine] came around I had no idea what that word meant.
Then again, I still feel it's not that easy to accept and some people have twisted the meaning around: ‘股沟’ [gu gou/groin] or ‘蝈蝈’ [guo guo/grasshopper], for example.
Google, you should have solicited people's opinions before choosing an official Chinese name. Now netizens are just saying ‘I told you so,’ [expletive].

Lian Yue's Eighth Continent



“Valley Song” letter of guarantee to the Chinese government

1. We promise to be unable to find any erotic materials, and all results will point to Sina‘s [major Chinese portal site] society news.
2. We promise to be unable to find any trash information, and all results will point to Sina's celebrity blogs.
3. We promise to modify search technology and equate the name list of government officials provided by China with the following keywords:
4. Incorruptible, humorous, austere, self-denying, loving of the people like their own sons, ironhanded, love, have sex!
5. We promise “have sex” is the result of Baidu's malicious attack.
6. We believe that 1990 follows the year 1988.
7. We also believe that June 5 is the day after June 3.
8. We promise to be unable to find any international news or any sensitive mainland news.
9. Google's logo in China will become ‘000000.’
10. ‘000000’ shall be pronounced ‘Gu Ge’ [valley song] but we recommend the pronounciation ‘Hu Ge’ [big brother Hu Jintao].

Microning from Aleha blog

“谷歌” ,以谷为歌,象征着收获的喜悦,也表达了一种勤恳求实的态度,以及对返朴归真的向往。它同时也想传达出中国人对幸运/吉祥的企盼。
“谷歌” ,是播种与期待之歌,亦是收获与欢愉之歌。

“Gu Ge,” a song for the valley, signifies the joy of harvest and expresses a sort of diligent and earnest striving for truth and a yearning to return to the simple life. It also communicates Chinese people's hope for luck and auspiciousness.
“Valley Song,” it's a song of sowing and anticipation, of harvesting and happiness.

Huang Jixin of MindMeters blog


‘Gu Ge’ is Google's only non-English name in the world. Some people like it, some don't. Sina did a survey in which sixty percent of respondents responded negatively. I'm not gonna say good or bad, but I do feel that seeing as Baidu took its name from an ancient Chinese literary term with Google merely transliterating its name into ‘Gu Ge,’ there's clearly a difference there.
Secondly, ‘Baidu’ has already found its place in modern Chinese vocabulary. If ‘Gu Ge’ wants to become a commonly-used word, Google has got a its work cut out. Other translated names with which we're all quite familiar like ‘Bao Ma’ [treasure horse/BMW], ‘Ben Chi’ [run quickly/Benz], ‘Ben Teng’ [gallop/Pentium]and ‘Ke Kou Ke Le’ [drink and be merry/Coca-Cola], all use commonly-used Chinese characters. To create a new word, though, is really quite hard.
I always used to joke at how Baidu was imitating Google, trying hard to turn ‘Baidu’ into a verb (Baidu once spent money to try and get larger media outlets to use the phrase ‘Baidu a bit’ in articles. At the newspaper I used to work at, we'd get everything laid out and ready and then just wait for Baidu to send a few ‘bits’ over). Looking now, comparatively, ‘Gu ge’ has got a very long way to go before it will ever become a verb.


Google可以在全世界都只用Google一个名字,但在中国,它必须有一个正式的中文名字。 据Google说,43%一直用Google的英文称呼,26%的人称Google为”狗狗”,13%的人称Google为”古狗”。53%的人希望Google有一个中文名字,所以Google就真的有了一个中文名字,符合中国名正则言顺的古训。
我不知道,我需要多久才会习惯”谷歌”,就像当初Viagra进中国,放弃已被民间广泛采用的”伟哥”的名字,而采用一个纯音译的”万艾可”,无论如何总比让中国人接受Viagra要好得多。 Google说,”谷歌” 并不会代替 “Google” 英文名称的使用,这两个名字今后将相互呼应、互为支持。不过还有些小问题我没搞清楚,谷歌是Google的中文产品名称,还是Google的中文公司名称,或二者皆是?

What did you feel the first time you heard the word ‘Gu Ge'? Myself, I felt it was very strange. Of course, for those who think it sounds strange, it's most likely due to their familiarity with the word Google itself. Actually, now that I think about it, I had the same feeling when I first started using this word ‘Google.’ Just plain strange. All these years later, I'm used to it now. Not just used to it, I think this word is quite wonderful, just like its wonderful colorful logo.
Google can get by with just the one name in the rest of the world, but in China it must have a formal Chinese name. According to a survey done by Google, 43% of people have always called Google by its English name.
26% call Google ‘Gou Gou’ [dog dog], 13% call Google ‘Gu Gou’ [ancient dog]. Fifty-three percent of people want Google to have a Chinese name, and now it does, maintaining the Chinese tradition of taking action only when it is perfectly justifiable.
I don't know how long it will take me to get used to ‘Gu Ge,’ just like when Viagra first came to China and abandoned the commonly-used name ‘Wei Ge’ [great brother] for the purer-sounding ‘Wan Ai Ke’ [ten thousand problems resolved] which overall led Chinese people to a greater acceptance of Viagra.
Google says, “‘Gu Ge’ will not replace the usage of Google's English name, that from now on these two names will just refer to and support each other. There are, however, still a few little things I can't figure out: is Gu Ge the name of Google's Chinese product, its Chinese company, or both?


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