Nicknames for foreign cars in China

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"Porsche and BMW are known as 'broken shoes' and 'don't touch me' in China", by Echo Huang

Many of these names are off-color and some even quite vulgar, but they are all affectionate:

Audi's RS series:  xīzhuāng bàotú 西装暴徒 ("a gangster in a suit"), inspired by the car's smooth look and impressive horsepower (some links in Chinese).

Bugatti's Veyron: féi lóng 肥龙 ("fat dragon").  The French car manufacturer's high-performance Veyron sports car earned the moniker for its round-front face design, and because "ron" in Veyron sounds like "lóng" ("dragon"), just as "Vey" sounds like féi ("fat").

BMW: bié mō wǒ 别摸我 ("don't touch / rub me").  The German acronym for Bayerische Motoren Werke forms the basis to create a Mandarin phrase that expresses how precious people consider the car to be.

Chevrolet's Camaro:  dà huáng fēng 大黄蜂 ("Bumblebee"). The name of the car's autobot character in the Transformers movies.

Déesse:  diǎosī 屌丝 (separately, the two characters mean "penis / cock / dick / prick" and "hair / thread / wire"; together they mean "loser ; deadbeat; no-hoper; slacker; good-for-nothing").  The French car's logo is "DS," which is also shorthand for "diǎosī" in Mandarin. The word is often used to refer jokingly to a poor, young male of mediocre looks.

Lamborghini's flagship cars of different generations, for instance, Aventador and Murciélago:  dàniú 大牛 ("big bull"). A nod to the Italian brand car's horsepower.

Lamborghini's entry-level racing cars of different generations, such as Huracán and Gallador:  xiǎoniú 小牛 ("small bull").  The differences between big and small bull are the car's size and designs.  The niú 牛 ("bull") of these names also invokes the vulgar expression, often discussed on Language Log  (e.g., here and here) that is euphemistically translated into English as "awesome".

Mercedes-Benz's AMG ( Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach), the high performance brand of Mercedes[-Benz:  aì mǔ jī 爱母鸡 (lit., "love the hen").  As pronounced by  Mandarin speakers, AMG sounds like "aì mǔ jī".

Porsche and its model Panamera:  pòxié 破鞋 ("broken shoes" –> "loose woman") for Porsche, and pà nǎ mō nǎ 怕哪摸哪 ("touch all the places you're afraid of") for Panamera ( like the Porsche Carrera lineage, the name is derived from the Carrera Panamericana race).

Volkswagen's Lamando: màntóu) 辣馒头 ("spicy steamed buns"), because of the similar pronunciation.

[Entries based on Echo Huang's descriptions]

[h.t. John Rohsenow]



4 Comments

  1. ycx said,

    July 14, 2019 @ 7:14 am

    On the topic of amusing Chinese exonyms, I recently learned that the Japanese battleship Yamato was referred to as "压码头" (sitting in the docks) due to its use as a "fleet in being" during the closing years of World War II.

  2. Waldron said,

    July 14, 2019 @ 8:05 am

    鞋破子 is a prostitute at least among some. Arthur

  3. Ralph said,

    July 14, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

    The bull references for Lamborghini have a simpler explanation – the brand logo is a bull, and all their models are named after famous fighting bulls.

  4. Michael Watts said,

    July 14, 2019 @ 3:10 pm

    Someone told me that at least among the community of Chinese in the US, BMW is jocularly supposed to stand for be my wife.

    I was under the impression that the car served a similar function in China, though English knowledge may be too low there for the joke to work as well.

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