10 January 2008

Old-time Chinese brands get ordinary English names





  全聚德 Quanjude Peking Roast Duck-Since 1864
  吴裕泰 Wuyutai Tea Shop-Since 1887
  同仁堂 Tongrentang Chinese Medicine-Since 1669
  瑞蚨祥 Ruifuxiang Silk-Since 1862
  荣宝斋 Rongbaozhai Art Gallery-Since 1672
  王致和 Wangzhihe Gourmet Food- Since 1669

I am a bit of a translation snob and was disappointed to read that despite all the worldwide entries and big-name university professors, all the translations came out quite unimpressive indeed. The "since xxx year" is quite nice, but name-wise, at least call it "Wuyutai Tea House" instead of "Tea Shop", "Tongrentang Chinese Medical Hall" instead of plain vanilla "Chinese Medicine", and then try translate the very poetic and literary "斋" into something other than "gallery". ("Gourmet Food" sounds wrong, but since I don't know "王致和" and the nature of the store, I can't comment further.)

There are quite a few well-done translations of brand names here and one of the best I have seen is that for the American stationery company Home Depot which is next door to our office. It was translated as "家得宝“ which achieved the effect of 译音又译义 (translating both the sound and the meaning)。Apparently the story goes that they spent money asking a translation company to do translate but were unsatisfied by the results. Then they happened to mention to a boss in our firm over lunch and he came up with the current one. Voila.

Post-script: I agree more whole-heartedly with the translation of Chinese dishes such as »this, though I think Kungpao Chicken should remain Kungpao Chicken... Most people who eat Chinese takeout overseas would know this.

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