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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

梅香 and 天天 or 美香 and 添添? 

Apparently, not everyone uses a Unicode-enabled browser. Evelin said that at her office, the Japanese phrase I quoted yesterday appeared only as boxes and squiggles for her. It may be that she was missing the Japanese language pack for Internet Explorer, and not a Unicode thing. I don't know.

In the interest of frustrating those whose browsers cannot parse CJK characters, I ran into something yesterday about Mei and Tian's names that I'm not sure about. Officially, the National Zoo's two pandas' names translate as Beautiful Fragrance (Mei Xiang) and More and More (Tian Tian), but I decided I wanted to put their names in characters in my linklist, so I did some quick digging online and came up with 梅香 (Mei Xiang) and 天天 (Tian Tian), based largely on this Beijing Portal report.

Looking through my Oxford Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition 精選英漢漢英詞典第二版, I see that 梅 is mei2 with the meaning "plum" and 香 is xiang1 meaning "scented" or "fragrant" (referring to flowers). This would imply that Mei's name should be translated as "fragrant plum" or "plum scented" or something similar, not "beautiful fragrance," which would be 美香 Mei3 Xiang1. But Googling 美香, I find that version of her name turns up almost as frequently as 梅香. Hurm ... is there confusion in China as to the panda's name or is it a pun that doesn't translate into English?

An old Washington Post article notes that some linguists and Chinese-speakers have had issues with how the Zoo has been pronouncing her name, although the question is more about 香 xiang1 than mei3; some critics are saying that the way interpreters pronounce things, may-SHONG, makes the second syllable of her name sound like 熊 (xiong2 "bear"), 凶 (xiong1 "terrible") or 湉 (xiong1 "fierce") instead of 香 (xiang1 "fragrance").

A similar issue crops up for Tian Tian. The characters I found for him, 天天 (tian1tian1), is the word "everyday," but I also found 添添 (tian1 tian1), meaning "increase" or "add," which fits with the official translation of his name as "More and More." It also looks, the more I Google, like 添添 is the favored rendering of his name. Again, I need to check the panda house to see if anything official is posted.

And, just in case anyone was wondering, panda in Chinese is 大猫熊 (da4 mao1xiong2), "big cat-bear."

UPDATE: The offical word can be found in this entry.

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