Pube names II — connotation is everything

As mentioned before, we chose donkey name as the best term for a “disparaging name that doesn’t hurt your brand”. We’d also considered pube name (borrowing from 屌丝 diǎo sī = literally “pubic hair”), but in the end we dropped it for being a bit too vulgar for permanent usage.

Now, though, the “diaosi = pube / loser” meme seems to be reaching deeper into the mainstream. As WSJ’s CHINAREALTIME reports:

Hollywood’s Dreamworks Animation is in talks with a Beijing-based production company to produce a slate of original online content based on “Surprise,” an Internet-driven TV show has been viewed more than 1.3 billion times since it went online last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The show, produced by Unimedia and online video site Youku Tudou, follows penniless daydreamer Wang Dachui and his misadventures as a diaosi, a vulgar Chinese slang term for educated young Chinese men with dim job prospects, little money and no girlfriends.

This is an interesting study in social acceptability. Not too long in the past, talking about your pubic hairs might get your ear tweaked by one of your elders. Even now, it’s certainly not fit for an official meeting.

But as a marker of your hipness, diaosi might be used to good effect in anything less than a party meeting. A few weeks ago I heard it at an entrepreneurship conference in an introductory speech.

Bringing the conversation back to naming as usual, there’s a good moral here about name selection: during the winnowing process, potential names have to be tested within their target markets. Of course this is true everywhere in the world. The twist for China is that it’s even more important. In China, the markets can be so different that it’s almost as if you’re working in different countries. It’s true across regions, especially with respect to language. It’s true across city tiers, where 3rd tier can be utterly different from 1st. And it’s true across generations, in this example where almost no one over 60 would have any idea of the meaning of 屌丝, let alone its cultural implications.

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