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shen zongse / nigger-brown
Software blamed for couch label slur
Chinese-English translation error came from old dictionary, says Chinese computer company
Apr 23, 2007 04:30 AM
A software problem is to blame for a packing slip on a couch that read "nigger-brown," according to a manger at the Chinese computer company that provided the translation.
"We got the definition from a Chinese-English dictionary. We've been using the dictionary for 10 years. Maybe the dictionary was updated, but we probably didn't follow suit," said Huang Luoyi, a product manager for the Beijing-based Kingsoft Corp., which manufactures the translation software that produced the offensive description.
"I know this is a very bad word."
He explained that when the Chinese characters for "dark brown" are typed into an older version of the company's Chinese-English translation software, the word "nigger" comes up.
The description ended up on the packing label on a couch delivered to Toronto resident Doris Moore, whose 7-year-old daughter asked her what "nigger" meant. Moore, 30, is consulting with a lawyer and wants compensation. Last week, she filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
"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 colour," Moore said last week. "I had friends over from St. Lucia yesterday and they wouldn't sit on the couch."
Romesh Vanaik, owner of Vanaik Furniture where Moore bought the sofa, said it has been a best-seller. He said he checked his stock but found no other couch with the offensive label.
"It's amazing. I've been here since 1972 and I never knew the meaning of this word," said Vanaik, a native of India.
Huang said Kingsoft has worked to correct the translation error. In the 2007 version, typing dark brown" in Chinese no longer results in a racial slur in English.