The city of Mr. Andreessen, South Korea

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By now, the sinking of the South Korean MV Sewol on April 16, 2014, with 476 persons on board, is known to the whole world.  Especially tragic is the fact that most of the passengers were high school students on an outing and that the ship's captain had behaved in an extremely irresponsible manner, resulting in the deaths of many individuals who might otherwise have been saved:

"South Korean President: Actions of sunken ferry captain 'akin to murder'".

Checking background information for the students, Rachel Kronick was looking at the Baidu page for Ansan si 안산 시 (Ansan City; Chinese 安山市), where most of them were from.  Surprisingly, she found that the name of the city in roman letters is currently listed as "Mr Andreessen".  As Rachel says, "A very interesting choice of transl(iter)ation!  And I thought it might make good blog fodder for you."

So how did the city get this weird name in English (according to Baidu)?

"Mr. Andreessen" is Marc Andreessen, a noted software engineer with a distinctive surname. He is best known as co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser.

Marc Andreessen's full name in Chinese is usually given as Mǎkè Andélǐsēn 马克·安德里森.  Occasionally, however, he is referred to by the much shorter, Chinese sounding name Ān Shān 安山.  It seems that Baidu got its wires crossed and rendered Ansan si 안산 시 (Ansan City; Chinese 安山市) as "Mr. Andreessen" (Ān Shān xiānshēng 安山先生).

When I first started to investigate how this switch occurred, I was confused by the fact that there seemed to be two 安山 ("Tranquil Mountain"), one in South Korea and one in China.  It turns out, however, that, though the names sound identical in Mandarin and in Korean, the city in China is actually called 鞍山 ("Saddle Mountain").  It also happens to have a small percentage of Koreans, around 10,000 out of a total population of 3,584,000.  Not only that, 安山 (Gyeonggi Province, South Korea) and 鞍山 (Liaoning Province, China) are sister cities.

I'm sure that there's a tremendous amount of sadness in both cities after the horrifying capsizing of MV Sewol last week.

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4 Comments »

  1. Rachel said,

    April 22, 2014 @ 9:17 am

    I'm wondering if a 氏 got rendered as 市 somewhere along the way?

  2. KWillets said,

    April 22, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    Spell-correction is my guess:

    안산시 -> 안산씨 -> 安山先生

  3. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    April 22, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

    According to Wikipedia, there is a 安山 in China, but it's in Hebei, apparently not that far from the bigger one either.

  4. Jongseong Park said,

    April 24, 2014 @ 4:13 am

    @KWillets: Perhaps there's something to the idea that 市 got mixed up with 氏 somewhere along the way, but why would any spell checker change 안산시 to 안산씨? According to google, the latter string only turns up in rare compounds like 안산씨푸드 "Ansan seafood", while 안산시 is a common established string.

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