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Baidu as a verb

JDM070514baidu1.png
Before: Baidu search!
JDM070514baidu2.png
After: Baidu it!

Baidu has taken the final step in turning its name into a verb. The company has been using 百度一下, "Baidu it!" in its advertisments for quite a while now, but last week it changed over its search button (the first image above is from a Google cached copy the version of 9 May).

The Baidu Fans website notes that the titlebar to the Baidu search page was changed to "百度一下,你就知道" (Baidu it and you'll find out) back in February. The Fans website also contains a historical overview of the metamorphosis of Baidu's homepage.

In a blog post, Zhai Hua wonders why Baidu isn't afraid of diluting its trademark and "genericiding" its brand:

Genericide is an English word thought up by branding and intellectual property experts....I think that you could translate it as "庸俗死" ("death by vulgarity"). Examples of genericide can also be found in China. At the beginning of the last century, there was an American company named Simmons that specialized in steel and copper spring mattresses and bedding. At first Simmons was translated as 雪门斯, but advertising results were not good. Later, the company had a stroke of genius and changed its translated name to 席梦思*, and this name spread far and wide. 席梦思 gradually became another name for spring mattresses in Chinese, until there were places manufacturing 席梦思 all across the country. That American company could not avoid "genericide."

I ask all googlers out there to Baidu it: Why does Google go all out to avoid genericide, and why is Baidu so unafraid?


Note: This post previously included a mistaken back-translation of 席梦思 - "thinking and dreaming on the mat." A reader has written in to inform me of the name's actual literary pedigree: it comes from the line 日有所思,夜有所梦, which refers to something that fills both your waking and sleeping thoughts. So Simmons is something consumers will long for even in their dreams.

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There are currently 4 Comments for Baidu as a verb.

Comments on Baidu as a verb

"Why does Google go all out to avoid genericide"

Wait, what? Google is already borderline on a generic as it is. Shit, Google is to "search on the Internet" as Nintendo used to be to "video games". Since when has Google run screaming from becoming a generic? Even in Taiwanese Mandarin the English word "Google" is creeping toward common use.

Tetsuo: There was this missive that G's lawyers sent out last year:

"Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party.
Inappropriate: I googled that hottie."

I think Google is probably safe as long as "to google" means "to search using Google"; I don't think many people mean it in a generic sense yet.

Slightly, minutely, concerned about your translation of 百度一下 to "Baidu it!"

That looks and sounds to me like a deliberate "back-back-translation" which although sometimes a good technique seems quite inaccurate in this instance.

What other "一下" verb would you translate to "[Verb] it"? Yeah. Didn't think so.

百度一下 if meaning-translated should be something like "Jump onto Baidu" (using the "quickly" implication of 一下) or "Check out Baidu" which makes the new motto then something like "Jump on on Baidu and find what you need". Your colloquialisms may vary.

Although you could make the argument that "看一下!" could be a cute-little-midwestern-girl "Lookit!" :)

Shan: Fair enough about the feel of the phrase, but "Baidu" isn't a verb in your examples, and so isn't threatened with genericide.

Also, I've been given more information about the source of the Simmons translation, and I've made a correction above.

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