Warning: Racially Offensive Furniture

Some Red Sox fans are doubly happy this week: not only did their team win a World Series, but they also get a rebate on the furniture they bought during a special Red Sox incentive deal last spring.

Hopefully none of them got a brown couch whose color is described, on its tag, with the use of the n-word.

That’s what happened to a Toronto woman in named Doris Moore. According to this A.P. article, Moore’s seven-year-old daughter found a tag on the couch reading “N—– brown” and asked her mother what the n-word meant.

How did this happen? The A.P. article explains:

Kingsoft Corp., a Chinese software company, acknowledged its translation program was at fault and said it was a regrettable error.

“I know this is a very bad word,” Huang Luoyi, a product manager for the Beijing-based company’s translation software, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He explained that when the Chinese characters for “dark brown” are typed into an older version of its Chinese-English translation software, the offensive N-word description comes up.

“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,” he said.

Moore, who is black, was shocked and chagrined by the incident. She filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and has gone so far as to meet with a lawyer to consider seeking compensation. As she explains: “I had friends over from St. Lucia yesterday and they wouldn’t sit on the couch.”

(Hat tip: Elka Shmelka.)


Charles

This would be much worse than the coffee incident. That was actually a valid case, but like so many cases there is very little common knowledge about it. McDonalds had memos warning their employees about not making extremely hot coffee and it gave her severe burns. I can understand serving something hot, but to the point where it would do serious damage to your mouth is stupid. There was no point in making the coffee that hot, its not like you have to cook it like meat to make sure its prepared right.

Kea

Offensive mistranslations happen the other way around, too. When KFC went to China, their slogan "we do chicken right", when translated into Chinese, ended up as "It is right to be a prostitute". "Chicken" being slang for "prostitute" in Chinese.

mgroves

"I had friends over from St. Lucia yesterday and they wouldn't sit on the couch."

Why does he still have it if it's so bleeding offensive?

Brian

Compensation? Please.

I bought a pc a couple of years back that had "upheave to USB" on the door covering the USB ports.

oddTodd

I think this story is hilarious. In fact, I thought it was hilarious when I first read about it... six months ago.

Charles

Would it be wrong to think that a couch with the colors Gringo or Honky White would be extremely funny?

JR

Why can't we move on to things more relevant than being politically incorrect? If no offense was meant by the labeling, it should be enough to move on.

But if this woman gets damages as compensation for her horrific experience with these labels, it won't be as bad as the lady who dropped McDonald's coffee on herself and won a couple of millions while at it.

Panem et Circanses

Was it just "Negro," which is a perfectly acceptable Spanish word? How could the six-letter variant ever turn up in such a dictionary?

PittCaleb

negro is a color, it's a proper description of the furniture.

There's a parking garage in Pittsburgh, right downtown at the point, which has the decks labeled by color - in multiple languages. I can confirm that through the early 90's, the "black" floor was also known as, "schwartz", "noir" and "negro" as well as about a dozen other languages.

So were minorities required to park on the deck with an offensive stereotype of their race based on their physical characteristics? (m-w.com) No, they were not. Nor were sinaasappel's required to park on the orange level!

David

To #5, I know there are a lot of lawsuits that can be deemed frivolous lawsuits. The McDonald's coffee case was not. The coffee was 190 degrees farenheit and the woman's damage were quite real-Second to third degree burns on her genitalia.

As for this case, I really can't see what standing this woman should have.

awesome

"Negro" is spanish for black, not brown. She said her couch was brown.

lergnom

Yes, and it's a Jaw Harp not a Jew's Harp but I don't think I'm going to sue every person who doesn't know the real name. And I thought that Halle Berry's joke about a picture of her with a big nose looking like her Jewish cousin was cute not offensive. Where I grew up, a police wagon was universally called a Paddy Wagon and I'll bet 90 out of 100 had no idea that is a slur on the Irish. Some is lack of knowledge, some is more wanton ignorance and some is just not meant badly.

So the issue is that negro means black but was used to mean some shade of brown. Wow.

Kent

While I can see why this woman might be upset, the rational reaction would be to chalk it up to the unintended language barrier that it was. A quick Google for Chinese sign mistranslations should be proof of how common they are, including a hospital sign directing women seeking a pelvic/gynecological examination to a "c*** examination room." She should surely have better things to worry about in her life than an innocent error committed by a factory worker on the opposite side of the globe ...

James

"I know this is a very bad word" - Huh?

What did the word do to get such a label?

Bad word, go to the corner and think about what you've done, while we mitigate in court about the impact you've had on this poor persons' life.

I got called many racial slurs when I was in high school, how come I didn't get any compensation?

martin g

I think "cracker white" or "honky pink" would be hilarious, but I would not criticize a black person for being offended by "n***** brown". There is all the difference in the world between the racism experienced by a black versus that which might be experienced by a white. What if an advertisement described a product in terms of the sexually explicit fantasies of a pedophile? "Soft as a ...!" or "Tight as a ...!". Wouldn't all of you who rail against "pc" be extremely offended by that? How would you reply to someone who told you "Get over it, they're just words!"? Wouldn't you say something along the lines of "It promotes, encourages, and legitimizes behavior that is horrible and completely reprehensible. This is totally unacceptable!". And if someone said "Well, it was an accident, you know different cultures and all, sorry about that", wouldn't you say that was insufficient and demand something more? I know I would. I would want to make a "federal case" out of it. If I was the owner of the company that sold the lady that couch I would take it back and give her a new one.

One honky's view.

Read more...

MM

another proof the Chinese are out to get us

Bob

Compensation, get a grip. Why would anyone be entitled to compensation for a stupid translation mistake make in some third world country? This sort of hypersensitivity is laughable.

Jerry

Is the epithet on the tag that cannot be removed under penalty of law? If so, then she has a case for governmental discrimination.

Debbie

I agree MM...it must be a conspiracy...first the Lead and now the offensive tags...call it Stupid Americans, too cheap to support American Made!

kevin

Just so everyone knows, the couch did not say negro brown. Here's a picture of the label:

http://www.thestar.com/Article/200265