So there is an AP story making the rounds about a furniture manufacturer that erroneously translated “dark brown” in Chinese into “nigger brown” in English, and that it showed up on the label of a sofa delivered to a family in Toronto, Canada. Obviously, it was a shock to the black family who thought it was to be a joyous occasion.
So yes, this is the darker side (no pun intended!) of globalization and of things lost in translation. During the reporting of this, I was called for comment, but could not provide much insight other than, “That’s not good.”
But it seems the new couch owner is going a bit far:
Moore is consulting with a lawyer and wants compensation. Last week, she filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Commission spokeswoman Afroze Edwards said the case is in the initial stages and could take six months to two years to resolve.
Moore, 30, has three young children, and said the issue has taken a toll on her family.
“Something more has to be done. We don’t just need a personal apology, but someone needs to own up to where these labels were made, and someone needs to apologize to all people of color,” Moore said. “I had friends over from St. Lucia yesterday and they wouldn’t sit on the couch.”
This is a bit much, but all normal in North America where lawsuits speak louder than anything else. Welcome to a globalized world with American-style litigation!
All indications are it was an innocent, though boneheaded, translation error. For folks living in China is a daily occurrence/chuckle/guffaw. Read the recent WSJ story on it from February 5, 2007 for more juicy tidbits.
This label error is not hate speech or an intent to malign. I hope the label is fixed, there are sincere apologies, and the case gets thrown out quickly.
UPDATE: I should point to the Wikipedia article on the word [[nigger]] for those not familiar with the impact of the word.