Ghetto Linguistic Screening

2013-12-11 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

Have you wondered if your English (or any non-Chinese language) name might sound profane or have negative connotations in Mandarin Chinese? Here’s a poor man’s linguistic screening using your iPhone with voice dictation. It’s free . . . and fun.




  1. Open the Notes app and tap New. Assuming your phone is in English mode, you’ll see a view similar to the following with on-screen keyboard ready for use:


  2. Tap and hold the globe key on the lower left and move your finger to 繁體手寫, meaning “Traditional Chinese character handwriting input mode”.


  3. If you don’t see a globe or don’t have a language keyboard on your iPhone, you will need to go to Settings, then General, then scroll down to Keyboard, then tap on Keyboards, Add New Keyboard…, then tap one of the Chinese keyboards. In this example I used Chinese - Traditional (Handwriting).


  4. After choosing the Chinese keyboard, you’ll see a view similar to the following:


  5. Tap the microphone key next to the globe and start saying your brand name out loud. Then tap Done.


  6. Your iPhone will try to understand what you just said and spit out Chinese words that sound similar.

  7. I tested it and Superman became 蘇碰面 (sū pèngmiàn), which could mean “[I’ve] met Sue.” It got Spider man. I tried Superman again and it gave me 數百名 (shù bǎi míng), meaning hundreds. Batman became 版面 (bǎnmiàn), meaning layouts. Double O Seven (007) became 東部省份 (dōngbù shěngfèn), meaning Eastern provinces, or 大寶寶 (dà bǎobǎo) Simon, meaning big baby Simon, or 大包包山本 (dà bāo bāo shānběn), meaning big bag Yamanoto.


  8. Have fun talking to your phone!


If you still want to be sure about your name after this fun exercise and you realize that this screening is not comprehensive, or if you’ve been told that there are other important Chinese dialects such as Min Nan (Taiwanese), Hu (Shanghainese), and Yue (Cantonese) that are not covered by the machine dictation, then press and hold the Home button and tell Siri, “Call Good Characters at 559-472-3320 now!”