2009-01-25 — Good Characters (Leave a message)
Unprofessional Chinese name translation are often what we called “salt tossed in the air” (See our previous blog post Names Paint Pictures). Here’s an example we’ve found: Brent.
Brent is often carelessly translated as 布伦特 (bu lun te).
布 (bu) is cloth, 倫 (lun) is moral relationship or order, and 特 (te) is special. Sounds like Brent and has good meanings, right?
Wrong! It turns out a word that sounds exactly like 布伦 (bu lun) has exotic meanings that belong only in tabloid, gossip publications. That word is 不伦 (bu lun), or 不倫 (bu lun) when written in traditional Chinese.
Traditionally, 不倫 (bu lun) simply meant out of order. However, in Japan today, 不倫 (bu lun) has the very negative connotation of immorality or adultery. Due to the popularity of Japanese TV drama in the 80s, this meaning of the term 不倫 (bu lun) has became well-known among the Chinese as well.
So imagine you introduce yourself to a Chinese friend, “Hi, my Chinese name is Bu Lun Te.” Your Chinese friend will probably respond, “Bu Lun what?” Your Chinese friend will have a hard time getting past the shock of “Bu Lun” to hear the entire name.
Image: Screen shot of Bu Lun Te [bad] Chinese translation at About.com.