Майкрософт vs. Microsoft, aka On choosing the most reasonable inconsistency

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/06/25 06:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/06/25/10025030.aspx


It was just over 17 months ago in the blog titled My name is Michael Kaplan and I work for Корпорация Майкрософт that I described the very interesting exception to the rule that Microsoft has throughout the world where the company's name is left in English even if everything around it is translated.

The exception? Well, Microsoft is transliterated to Майкрософт (CYRILLIC EM A I KA ER O ES O EF TE, and yes the Unicode names for Cyrillic letters are an upcoming topic as well!).

And there was one comment in the blog from Azarien that pointed out something else interesting here:

...it's only Microsoft which gets transliterated, the Corporation part is translated. [emphasis mine]

And indeed, that is interesting (since in so many other languages (though perhaps not all) the full Microsoft Corporation is kept in English. I think they kinda snuck this one past the lawyers all those years ago, maybe. But from my point of view lawyers speak Greek, not Russian! :-)

Anyway, I wanted to highlight that point, as an interesting issue was bandied about the other day.

I mean Russian, which uses Майкрософт (Microsoft to you English speaking types, by which I mean us English speaking types), has many Language Interface Packs that use the Cyrillic script.

Like Ukrainian. And Kazakh. And Tajik. And so on.

They can all have Russian as their base language. And English I believe....

And now for the questions, about the cat that is placed among the pigeons by all this:

1) Should these other languages transliterate Microsoft into Cyrillic as well, or should it be left in English?

2) If it is transliterated and the target language has slightly different transliteration conventions, should the slightly different conventions be followed?:

3) Should they translate the word Corporation akin to the way Russian does, or should it be transliterated, or should it be left in English?

4) Remembering that LIPs do not localize more than the top level UI, that means there will be many instances of the company name that may be in either English or Russian on one of these LIPs as the UI language. Knowing that the words in the target language can't dynamically change depending on the base language, does this change the answer to questions one, two, or three?

5) This has happened already in some previous LIPs too. So should each language just do whatever it did last time, whatever that may be?

6) Should they try and get metics (if they exist) on the most common base language and go with that one?

It seems like no matter what is done, there is going to be some inconsistencies here, for at least some of the time.

But which inconsistency is most reasonable and...well...consistent, do you think?


Troy on 25 Jun 2010 10:57 AM:

I think that "Microsoft" should be left untransliterated with the rare exception of places it's hard for people to read from the Latin alphabet.  With the pervasiveness of English or other Western European languages being used atleast as trade languages around the world, it might be hard to find a place that has a hard time reading Microsoft in A-Z characters.  Should, "本田技研工業株式会社" be trademarked as "Honda Motor Company, Ltd." within the US?  Definitely!

John Cowan on 25 Jun 2010 11:15 AM:

1) Of course proper names should be transliterated (with a few special exceptions like Greek and Japanese, where foreignisms are usually written in Latin letters).  Do you expect a New York Times article about Georgia to refer to its current president as მიხეილ სააკაშვილი?  Hardly.

2) Probably, yes.

3) Translate, unless the language conventionally does not.  Is it Microsoft Ltd. in the U.K. and Microsoft Pty. Ltd. in Australia?  I'd guess yes.

fy_ms_blogs_for_making_me_login_to_read on 26 Jun 2010 9:57 AM:

There's one more controversy with Microsoft in Russian: the "Micro" part have long been commonly transliterated as "Микро" ("Meekro"), when used in science/popular literature. And by long I mean, hundreds of years obviously. Therefore many say Microsoft should be written and spoken in Russian as "Микрософт", not "Майкрософт", just how we write and say "микросокоп" ("meekroscope") for microscope and not "майкроскоп" (lol). That just sounds foreign to our ears.

Well, the number of those advocating for "Микрософт" seems to have been declining over the years, as Microsoft itself does not care and people in general know enough English to accept "Майкрософт" as a transliteration of a foreign word. Still, both variations are yet in use in informal speech and writing.

And yeah, I think if corporations want to truly establish their branches inside of the country, not just export their goods there, they definitely need to translate/adapt/transliterate their branding. It just sounds ridiculous to work in a company with a foreign name. Just imagine American company having its name in Cyrillic (which you have to pronounce with a proper accent too). That's plain impossible, makes you laugh. The best choice is adaptation, to my mind, but transliteration is still better than keeping the latin name.

Mihai on 1 Jul 2010 12:00 PM:

"with the rare exception of places it's hard for people to read from the Latin alphabet"

Actually, talking to one of my Chinese colleagues, it is a very common thing for Chinese speakers to not know the Latin alphabet. For his parents visiting he had to use Bopomofo to explain them how to pronounce the name of his company in the airport, if asked by the emigration officer.

I know this is also the case with Russian and Greek. And I assume it is also true for other languages using non-Latin alphabet.

Yes, does not apply to geeks-or-English-speaking users.

But do you have an idea how many millions of these are out there for a product like Windows? I can tell you: a lot!

So saying "everybody understands the Latin script" is definitely not true.

There is a reason why Coca-Cola changes it's name to use the local market.

Same for Subway (farm4.static.flickr.com/.../3456539176_c6436691bb.jpg)

Maybe they know something?

Michael S. Kaplan on 1 Jul 2010 5:37 PM:

I agree with you, not with the earlier commenter. At best it becomes a familiar weird set of glyphs that mean the company, to some people!

Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Jul 2010 2:35 AM:

Although in the case of Chinese, it is hard to imagine knowing Mandarin in the PRC without knowing English letters at least (I mean given Pinyin and all)....

Mihai on 2 Jul 2010 9:36 AM:

Sorry, I think I know your position (on most things), my answer should have been marked "@Troy"

"(I mean given Pinyin and all)...."

That was also my thinking. But lately I got confirmation from two different people (native Chinese) that they have major problems with Pinyin, and they prefer Bopomofo at any time. And that Bopomofo is better for Chinese input.

I don't know if that is because they are not familiar enough with Pinyin (they learned Bopomofo in school).

But the thing is: there might be quite a big percentage of people that live pretty well without Pinyin, and we don't even know it :-)

Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Jul 2010 2:33 PM:

Makes me wonder -- do they pick up the Bopomofo sort too? That would require then switching to the Chinese (Taiwan) user locale....


referenced by

2011/01/29 Kyrgyzstan, not Kazakhstan! (the "Penn -- Not Penn State' of Central Asia)

2010/12/23 PC LOAD LETTER? What the f**k does that mean [in Chinese]?

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