Bango mango

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Kira Simon-Kennedy took this photograph at a 7-Eleven in Beijing:

(Click to embiggen.)

More proof that there's really no one checking, because if they can get it right once…, unless they originally spelled it as "bango", somebody spotted the error, and they changed the new packaging to "mango", but are continuing to sell off the old "bango" packages. The only way to know for sure is for Language Log readers in China to keep an eye open for which packages continue to show up during the coming months: bango, mango, or both bango and mango — or maybe pango.

The fine text on both Bango & Mango packages reads:

Real traditional flavor
Return the traditional taste
The nice food nonce
From nature, pure taste

These fruits come from Mángguǒ zhuāngyuán 芒果庄园 ("Mango Manor / Estate").

The word for "mango" in Mandarin, mángguǒ 芒果, ultimately derives from a South Indian language. The English word for the fruit similarly comes from Tamil mānkāy (mān ["mango tree"] + kāy ["fruit"]), entering the language in the 1580s (< Portuguese manga < Malay mangga). The Taiwanese (Minnan) word for the fruit is quite different: sōaiⁿ-á 檨仔.

Thank goodness that they didn't attempt to translate the product type, 芒果干 ("dried mango"), which is written in Chinese beneath Bango & Mango, for if they had, the result may very well have been something naughty.


  1. Brendan said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 12:24 am

    Haven't looked recently, but my local 7-11 was selling bags of Bango a couple of months ago.

  2. Nathan Myers said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    Sometimes I wonder whether even strongly literate, native Mandarin speakers can interpret short, unfamiliar written expressions with any justified confidence, or repeatability. Would they not be even more ambiguous spoken? Maybe the best possible gift to the Chinese people would be to teach them ASL.

  3. Greg Price said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 4:50 am

    In the brand name (in yellow at the top), they actually write the fruit's name not as 芒果 mang2guo3 — as you've written, and as they write below that — but rather as 满果 man3guo3. This is a very near homophone, and AFAICT isn't an accepted variation of the word 芒果 in Chinese. Googling finds that the same brand name is used on a variety of packaged fruit:

    So this may be an example of a brand name "misspelling" a word for distinctiveness, as with s/z and the like in English. Which is fun to see done in 汉字!

  4. michael farris said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 5:13 am

    "Maybe the best possible gift to the Chinese people would be to teach them ASL."

    Wouldn't it be more practical for hearing Chinese (in the PRC) to learn Chinese Sign Language?

    Not to be confused with the unrelated Taiwan Sign Language or Hong Kong Sign Language….

  5. Ginger Yellow said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 6:00 am

    What exactly is the product? Dried mango? Mango flavoured crisps?

    I choose to think that a "bango" is a blood mango.

  6. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    There are subtle differences in the packaging, including the (R) symbol, the arrangement of the Chinese text at the top, and-to my eyes-the fact that the Bango graphics are slightly blurry. Could the Bango package be a knock-off?

  7. Nick Lamb said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    You could get a quicker answer by examining the batch codes or best before dates on the packages. If the "Bango" packaging was obsolete stock being used up, you should find that only packs with older codes are marked "Bango".

    I guess the diagonal writing might also hold a clue? If perhaps it says "Great new recipe" or "Better than ever" or something?

  8. hectorthebat said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    Surely the real question is why the word 'nonce' (British slang for homosexual or paedophile) appears there?

  9. Mark Etherton said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    It's not just the product type. What worries me is the concept of a 'nice food nonce' given the BrE meaning of nonce, which the OED defines as: A sexual deviant; a person convicted of a sexual offence, esp. child abuse.

  10. michael farris said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Hey, sexual deviants gotta eat too!

  11. Victor Mair said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    @Greg Price

    You're right. The brand name is Mǎnguǒ zhuāngyuán 满果庄园 ("Full Fruit Manor / Estate"), not Mángguǒ zhuāngyuán 芒果庄园 ("Mango Manor / Estate"). I read the brand name so quickly that I didn't even notice the difference. It's like when somebody miswrites "too" for "two" or "to" or "write" for "right" and you aren't delayed by it in your reading of their message. However, in this case, the writing of mǎnguǒ 满果 ("full fruit") instead of mángguǒ 芒果 ("mango") was undoubtedly intentional, since — as you point out — the company also sells other types of dried fruit (the mǎnguǒ 满果 ["full fruit"] is not a pun for mángguǒ 芒果 ["mango"], it's the name of the brand). In fact, on the Taobao online marketing website (China's version of eBay) whose URL you supplied, I notice that they also sell dried apricots, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and durian (ugh!). Since the same product type is sometimes sold at different prices and occasionally in slightly different packaging (e.g., with or without the diagonal handwriting that I discuss below), I suspect that there is a fair amount of knocking off going on with what was probably once a respected brand name. On this Taobao page, dried mango(e)s are advertised at three different places and at three different prices: 10.80 yuan for 80g 13.00 yuan for 80g 12.50 yuan for 80g

    All three are "Bango", not "Mango"

    @Nick Lamb

    The diagonal writing across the Mango package actually says "Nín suíshēn de guǒyuán!" 您随身的果园! ("the fruit orchard that you carry around with you wherever you go!" or, more succinctly, "your portable orchard").

  12. Ginger Yellow said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    Surely the real question is why the word 'nonce' (British slang for homosexual or paedophile) appears there?

    If I had to guess, it's a dictionary or Google Translate mistake from the slightly archaic "for the nonce". In other words, it's trying to express the idea that this is nice fast/snack food.

  13. Gary said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I thought the British slang word was nance, not nonce.

  14. Tom O'Neill said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    "Why does the word nonce (British slang for homosexual or paedophile appear here?"

    I think this question confuses or conflates two other British terms: "nance" –an effeminate or homosexual male and "ponce" a pimp or an effeminate man.

    "Nonce," as in "for the nonce" has the meaning described by Ginger Yellow above.

  15. Mark Etherton said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    @Tom O'Neill

    The OED clearly distinguishes nonce and nance, and says that the origin of nonce is unknown, even though one of the quotations (from that well-known journal of linguistics, Police Review, cited 64 times in the OED) does suggest that nonce is derived from nancy-boy.

  16. julie lee said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    Could it be that Bango was the translation for 芒果 MANGGUO (Mandarin) “mango" of someone who spoke the Chinese Taiwanese or Fujianese dialects? So SA MO "desert" in Hupei dialect (SHA MO in Mandarin) is SA BUK in Taiwanese/Fujian dialects (note: Chinese SA MO "desert", a word dating to at least 3rd century BC , corresponds to Greek PSAMMOS "sand" and Latin SABURRA "sand") .

  17. julie lee said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

    I accidentally deleted this from my comment just now:

    "Mandarin initial m- corresponds to Taiwanese/Fujianese initial b-." This may explain why Mango was also translated Bango. I wonder if it was first translated to Bango by a Taiwanese/Fujianiese speaker, and then corrected to Mango by someone who knew Mandarin.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

    It's interesting that my reading error — mistaking Mǎnguǒ zhuāngyuán 满果庄园 ("Full Fruit Manor / Estate") for Mángguǒ zhuāngyuán 芒果庄园 ("Mango Manor / Estate") — is a phonological miscue, not a failure of orthographical recognition. This supports the work of John DeFrancis and other researchers who have shown the overall primacy of sound over shape in the processing of Chinese characters. Naturally, there are times when characters that very closely resemble each other may be mistaken, but more often than not reading errors are of a phonological nature.

  19. kamo said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

    If you'll forgive the blatant self-promotion, I can go one better with a Japnese example of two alternatives on the same case –

    I fully appreciate the L/R confusion, but I'm not sure splitting the difference is the best way to go.

  20. Terry Collmann said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    Whatever the true origins of "nonce", many people who have been through the UK prison system seem to believe it to be derived from "nonsense crime", that is, the sort of crime an ordinary, decent criminal would never commit – see eg here.

  21. David said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    "Nonce" in the "short lived" sense is a meaning still well alive in cryptography, where values in a protocol that exist to be used once, primarily to prevent replay attacks, are known as "nonce values".

  22. John Swindle said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

    "Nonce" meaning something like "deviant sex criminal" appears in Susan Hill's 2005 crime novel "The Pure in Heart." Not a nonce word, then.

  23. Gummy worm said,

    February 5, 2012 @ 1:29 am

    Anyone notices that only the character 「满」is written in traditional「滿」while the rest are in simplified?

  24. Victor Mair said,

    February 7, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

    From Michael Carr:

    Not to mention bangō / mangō

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