China has banned companies from registering weird and long names.
Last year, Beijing banned any more “bizarre” buildings. In recent years the country has seen buildings shaped like a teapot and another resembling a pair of trousers.
Now, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce has continued the government’s crusade for normalcy with restrictions on such names as ‘scared of wife’ or ‘prehistoric powers’.
So, just how weird and wonderful are Chinese company names? Well, a few otherwise-unoccupied social media users in China have dug up some gems.
Skinny blue mushrooms
Some curiosities have crept into business names from internet memes.
“Shenyang Prehistoric Powers Hotel Management Limited Company” might sound weird but less so to Chinese sports fans who remember swimmer Fu Yuanhui.
She famously won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, afterwards declaring: “I have used all my prehistoric powers to swim!”
There are also lots of restaurants and cafes with the phrase “skinny blue mushroom”.
The phrase originated from a meme which mocked a man from Guangxi province who uploaded a video of himself talking about his loneliness while his girlfriend was away.
“Unbearable, I want to cry,” he moaned – but thanks to his accent, it ended up sounding more like “skinny blue mushroom”.
Scared of wife
One of the best known offbeat names on Chinese social media is a condom company called “Uncle Niu”.
Or, more accurately, “There Is a Group of Young People With Dreams, Who Believe They Can Make the Wonders of Life Under the Leadership of Uncle Niu Internet Technology Co Ltd.”
It’s not concise, but at least it’s positive.
Others aren’t so upbeat, especially when it comes to home life.
And given “Beijing Scared of Wife Technology Company” and “Anping County Scared of Wife Netting Products Factory” are both registered companies, the trend doesn’t seem to be limited by industry or region.
Lost in translation
The rules of written Chinese are vastly different to those of written English, so many names seem far stranger in translation than in the original tongue.
English names can seem pretty strange in Chinese too, and there’s a cottage industry among branding agencies to help western companies come up with names for the Chinese market.
Western company names often follow the name of their founder (think Boeing, Ford or Gucci), which might have no direct translation.
Or they might be a concocted portmanteau (think Verizon, which is the Latin word “veritas” meaning truth, with horizon bolted on to the end) or maybe even just tech nonsense (Etsy, Hulu).
“What we think is most important to come up with a name that captures the spirit of the brand,” says Tait Lawton, from Nanjing Marketing Group, which provides naming services.
Mighty liquid guard
Western companies sometimes try to phonetically replicate the original, or come up with a Chinese name that’s fairly neutral in meaning.
Others will come up with a new name that tries other ways of encapsulating the brand.
“BMW’s current Chinese name is ??. It’s great. The first character means ‘treasure’ and the second character means ‘horse’. The sound is ‘bao ma’, starting with a B and M. Plus, it’s short. It just has a great feel to it,” says Mr Lawton.
He has a few other examples he likes too.
Pampers, for example, is ??? or “bang bao shi”, which means “helps make baby comfortable”.
Walch soap ??? or “wei lu shi” loosely translates as “mighty liquid guard”, and who wouldn’t want to wash with that?