Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

伟哥 (Big Brother)

There’s a Big Brother in China, but not the one associated with the George Orwell classic. Although it should be noted that there are certainly a number of people, local and foreign alike, who believe that this sort of Big Brother does exist in China, and not all of them think that this is necessarily a bad thing…

But let’s leave the discussion of totalitarian regimes for elsewhere, shall we?

After all, there are more pressing matters to attend to, matters of stiff importance, matters that threaten to keep a people from developing a spirit, getting it up and going for it, leaving them flaccid and unable to spread the seeds of their culture, you know, important issues like male impotence.

Indeed, the word for Viagra in Chinese is 伟哥 (wèigÄ“), which literally means “Big Brother”.

As exciting as this news is for those looking to let loose a pun or two whilst discussing China’s enlightened-authoritarian government, it should be qualified.

The official Chinese name for Viagra as it is marketed by Pfizer is 万艾可 (wànàikÄ›) which is a sterilized transliteration of the original English name with no discernible meaning. I suppose they thought that this is a more suitable name for marketing a drug, as 伟哥 is a bit of a joke, as we’ll see in a bit.

However, Pfizer does recognize the existence of this common name for the drug, saying on its China website:


[Viagra (万艾可) (Citric acid-Sildenafil tablets), also Pfizer America’s “Big Brother” ( 伟哥)]

The 伟 (wèi) portion of the word 伟哥 does mean ‘big’, but more in the sense of ‘grand’ or ‘great’, as seen in the word 伟大, which is used to describe the greatness of famous historical figures, countries, historic moments.

The character å“¥ (gÄ“) in its duplicated form, 哥哥, literally means ‘older brother’.  So now we’ve brought age into the equation.  Put them both together, and 伟哥 conjures up thoughts of your sad, impotent ‘older brother’ regaining his chance to get out and be ‘great’ again. Good, right? It gets better.

The world for ‘little brother’ in Chinese is 弟弟 (dìdì), which is also happens to be a slang word for ‘penis’. This pill makes your sad 弟弟 into one 伟哥.

In my opinion, whoever coined the name 伟哥 is a genius.  The name succinctly and memorably relates the effects of one of the world’s most famous pharmaceuticals.

Too bad some Big Brother in China didn’t see it that way.

posted by ferret at 2:35 am  

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