Feeds

Chinese translation software blamed in racist sofa outrage

'Mommy, what colour is that?'

High performance access to file storage

A Toronto family has been left traumatised after a software translation error led to the dark brown upholstery of their new sofa being labelled "nigger brown", AP reports.

Doris Moore explained that it was her seven-year-old daughter who first spotted the offending tag. She recounted: "My daughter saw the label and she knew the colour brown, but didn't know what the other word meant. She asked, 'Mommy, what colour is that?' I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I never thought that's how she'd learn of that word."

Moore duly complained to Vanaik Furniture, the store which supplied the couch. The company denied responsibility, fingering the wholesaler, Cosmos Furniture in Toronto. Cosmos's Paul Kumar said: "It's not my fault. It's not the manufacturers' fault."

The blame, it eventually turned out, lay with Kingsoft Corporation - a Beijing-based software company. Huang Luoyi, a product manager for its translation software, told AP the problem lay with an old version of its translation engine: "I know this is a very bad word. We got the definition from a Chinese-English dictionary. We've been using the dictionary for 10 years. Maybe the dictionary was updated, but we probably didn't follow suit."

Kingsoft described the sorry affair as a "regrettable error", but this cut little ice with Moore. She said the matter had "taken a toll on her family", and is accordingly seeking compensation. She is reportedly consulting lawyers and last week "filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission".

She said: "Something more has to be done. We don't just need a personal apology, but someone needs to own up to where these labels were made, and someone needs to apologise to all people of colour. I had friends over from St Lucia yesterday and they wouldn't sit on the couch." ®

Bootnote

Romesh Vanaik of Vanaik Furniture described the sofa in question as a "best seller". He said he'd checked the rest of his stock, but hadn't found any similarly-offensive labels.

Apparently, the whole mix-up might be the result of a mis-spelling/mistranslation of "Niger Brown" - a term for a dark, chocolate colour, although not much used these days. Thanks to those readers who pointed this out.

Oh yes, and thanks to El Reg's old chum Chris Winpenny for the heads-up.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Forget the beach 'n' boardwalk, check out the Santa Cruz STEVE JOBS FOUNTAIN
Reg reader snaps shot of touching tribute to Apple icon
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
Happy 40th Playmobil: Reg looks back at small, rude world of our favourite tiny toys
Little men straddle LOHAN, attend tiny G20 Summit... ah, sweet memories...
Spanish village called 'Kill the Jews' mulls rebranding exercise
Not exactly attractive to the Israeli tourist demographic
Lego is the TOOL OF SATAN, thunders Polish priest
New minifigs like Monster Fighters are turning kids to the dark side
Dark SITH LORD 'Darth Vader' joins battle to rule, er, Ukraine
Only I can 'make an empire out of a republic' intones presidential candidate
Chinese company counters pollution by importing fresh air
Citizens line up for bags of that sweet, sweet mountain air
Google asks April Fools: Want a job? Be our 'Pokemon Master'
Mountain View is prankin' like it's 1999...
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.