I was just thinking recently about all these Chinese transliterations of names of products, places and people from outside of China. Does anyone know how these transliterations are created? Is there some kind of institution or group of institutions in China that comes up with these transliterations? I was just very curious about this.
RJJanuary 05, 2013, 04:42 PM
For Proper names I believe its usually done by the major news agencies in China such as Xinhua. If there are several competing transliterations of a famous person's name, standardization occurs by whichever name catches on to a greater extent, and this may vary by region. Obama has been transliterated in the Chinese press as 奥巴马 (àobāmǎ), but the US Embassy uses 欧巴马 (ōubāmǎ) and have pushed for that to be the standard. Products are named by the companies that make them and much thought goes into this. Coke (可口可乐) and Pepsi (百事可乐) for example. Coke supposedly held a contest to come up with a clever name with the right sound back in the 1930's, but that story has proven hard to confirm.