Writer and Social entrepreneur.

In case you didn’t bother counting, until now Apple introduced more than ten iPhone models. Although not all represented major upgrades over the previous versions, each iPhone had its own slogan(s). Most of the slogans are simple and straightforward, but there are some which can definitely raise some eyebrows. It’s been somewhat of a wild ride when it comes to iPhone slogans, for example, iPhone 4 had ‘This changes everything. Again,’ iPhone 6 had ‘Bigger than bigger’.

When the American tech giant launched the newest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus this week, Apple fans in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan realized that the Chinese translations of the new “This is 7” slogan vary, a lot.

Apple's iphone7 slogan in hong kong
Apple’s iphone7 slogan in hong kong

China: 7, is here.
Taiwan: Exactly is 7.
Hong Kong: This, is exactly iPhone 7.

“This is 7” (這是7) sounds a bit like a nonsense in Chinese. The version in China changes the word order to make it less colloquial, while the Taiwan version adds “就,” which means exactly or precisely, to, er, make it sound more affirmative. The Hong Kong slogan, meanwhile, seems to be wordy, failing to capture the simplicity of the original English version.

Here’s why they’re different:

Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, while mainlanders and Taiwanese speak Mandarin. Speakers of the two biggest dialects of the Chinese language can find each other impossible to understand and even use different written characters.And in Cantonese, “seven,” or 柒, is pronouncedtsat,and is also slang for “penis.”
The word isn’t particularly offensive. Instead, it is often used to describe a hilarious person or thing, or mock someone gently. Let’s say a friend slipped in public, or got a goofy haircut: you can say to him in Cantonese “You are so seven,” without hurting his feelings too much.Or, you can take the literal meaning. That’s why “This is penis” or “Penis, is here” or “Exactly is penis” were not great choices for Apple’s Hong Kong marketing push.

We are hoping Apple would pay a huge attention to language translation next time something like this is brewing. But for now, THE DEED HAS BEEN DONE.

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