International companies are always happy when global consumers line up for their products. Apple, the company behind Macs and iPhones, garners countless headlines when people line up days in advance to buy the latest technology. The same is true of the iPhone 7. Because it is hard to continually drum up excitement over minor changes, the company settled on a simple slogan: ‘This is 7.’ That’s pretty dull, unless you live in Hong Kong or speak Cantonese. Then the slogan makes you giggle because it turns into a penis joke.
There are a number of ways to translate the slogan in Chinese. In Mandarin, the slogan comes out to ‘The 7 is here.’ Nothing wrong with that, especially with Mandarin the predominant language in China. In Taiwan, the slogan is ‘Exactly is the 7.’ Not as good, but still acceptable. Even in many parts of Hong Kong, the phrase is acceptable: ‘This is exactly 7.’
So what’s the problem? The issues exists with one of Apple’s target demographics. Having seen declining sales among the under 30 year old demographic, Apple tried to cater to their needs. This is why the company modeled, some would say stole, the concept of stickers from Line, the popular Japanese app. Similarly, Apple added predictive emojis to its new iOS and phone. This same under-30 group frequently uses the word seven, which is pronounced as ‘chat’, to mean penis. That makes the new branding for the iPhone 7 ‘This is penis, or ‘This is exactly penis.’
The translation gaffe wouldn’t be so bad if the new mobile phone model still had a 3.5mm headphone jack. With its removal, Apple’s Chinese social media pages are littered with various posters saying the new phone is penis. Others have said it can’t be a penis because it lacks an appropriate hole. Even more potential consumers went down the path of making penis jokes and being unable to find any hole to stick it in. In a way, Chinese officials may secretly be happy about the discontentment and jokes, for it might discourage the inventive smugglers from trying to sneak so many penises, err iPhones, into mainland China.
Unveiling the new most popular pickup line in Hong Kong: ‘Is that an iPhone 7 plus in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?’