The years haven’t been the best for entities with names beginning with ‘ever’.
In March, the container ship Ever Given, operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, was stuck in the Suez Canal for six days. A few months later, the Ever Ace – newly crowned the world’s largest container ship, also the Evergreen – made its maiden voyage, but its first appearance was amid supply chain crises that particularly affected, perhaps caused by, large ships. In September, Chinese real estate developer Evergrande teetered on the brink of collapse, as it struggled to make payments to its creditors. Among these creditors is Zhōngguó Guāngdà Yínháng – or as it is known in China, Everbright Bank.
And these were just the “Evers” that popped up in 2021. Shen Sun, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, has always paid special attention to the names he sees around him, and has noticed how companies with the “Ever” prefix, whether with their Chinese or English names Common throughout China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He could extract examples: the Hong Kong stock index Hang Seng, where the Chinese word “Hang” means “never” or “forever”, for example, or Hang Lung Properties, a property developer in Hong Kong.
It’s a short word, “never”: only four characters in English, or one character in Chinese. But with that word, Sun said, “You can tell a very big story about how Chinese political and cultural systems have transformed from the imperial era to today.”
How do Chinese companies get their names in English
It’s easy to assume, given the unfamiliar ring of names such as “Evergrande” or “Everbright,” that they are direct translations from Chinese. This is not always the case, said Adam Knight, co-founder of Tong Digital, a London-based marketing consultancy that works extensively with companies in China.
Knight said Chinese companies translate their names into English in one of four ways. In the simplest way, the Chinese name will be directly converted into English: Huawei, for example. Others will transliterate with slight changes; Knight noted that the beer known to Western diners as Tsingtao is technically “Qīngdǎo” in origin. The third method is direct translation. So the Great Wall Wine, the most famous vineyard in China, has a Chinese name that also means ‘Great Wall of China,’ Knight said.
Knight said the final method involves a completely new English name, a name that has nothing to do with the original Chinese brand, and is often just English words mixed together. He pointed out that “Tencent is an example.” The words “ten” and “cent” sound like the Chinese words “teng” and “xun”, which indicates the rapid spread of information, but the meaning of the English words together does not reflect anything of the basic Chinese homonyms.
Companies and brands whose names begin with “Ever” follow a number of these models. Everbright Bank, for example, has a Chinese name that roughly indicates great brightness: there is no indication of longevity at all. The Chinese name Evergrande means a kind of continuous greatness; Similarly, the names Evergreen and Ever Given are exactly translated from Chinese. However, the Hang Seng Index does not give a special English name at all; It’s Hang Seng through and through.
Why is the prefix “Ever” popular in China
Catherine Chiang, director of the Confucius Institute of Business in London, at the London School of Economics, said the immediate appeal of EVER is evident in a culture such as that of China. “It is a culture that values longevity and longevity. “You always want something to exist forever,” Xiang said. She said that Xi’an, one of the most important cities of the Chinese Empire, “once had a name that meant ‘long peace.'” There is a perennial plant that we sometimes call the ‘holy lily,’ but it is referred to by its original name and translated into English as ‘evergreen’. “. This plant and its name have become very popular. I think it’s part of the reason why, when we think of “immortality,” we use the word “never.”
Sun said the practice of explicitly giving companies and brands auspicious names — using words such as “luck,” “prosperity,” or “longevity” — derives from feng shui. He said, “Even today, when my friends start their business in China, they consult a feng shui master about what they call it.” “Because according to feng shui, if you have a good name, you can change your fortunes.”
Sun said that these beliefs were consistent in China through imperial times, but after the 1911 Revolution ended the monarchy, successive governments attempted to dispel what they considered superstitions. The Communist Party did the same. “Look at the names of companies or entities in the early part of Mao’s era,” Sun said. “You’ll see a lot of ‘liberation’ or ‘east wind’ or ‘regeneration.’ The revolutions created a rift in China and Taiwan; in British-ruled Hong Kong, feng shui-inspired names continued to proliferate through the 20th century.”
Evergrande, Ever Given, and Other Evers
After Mao’s death, China changed again, going through a period of reforms that brought the economy closer to capitalism. Sun said that with the acceleration of reforms in the late 1980s and 1990s, people “felt an emptiness in their beliefs. They knew communism was bankrupt, but they didn’t have any new modernity of their own to embrace.” In this case, “many private entrepreneurs and even heads of state-owned enterprises went back to the feng shui masters when they named their businesses,” Sun said. “And of course, hoping and pointing out that your company will last forever makes sense, because during the entire period of communism, entrepreneurs were so pressured by the system that it was very rare for any private company to last more than three generations.”
Sun noted that Taiwan went through market reforms and democratization long before that. In his thinking, the void of faith had not been opened as widely as it had in China. So even though the Taiwanese conglomerate Evergreen and its various ships use the prefix, he said, “Overall you’ll see fewer company names that come from Feng Shui.”
The irony is that at least two of the brand names that begin with “Ever”–brand names denoting an infinite existence–have almost been a crop this year, in Suez or in the real estate sector in China, no one is missing out on. “Indeed, I think it would be interesting to see if the prefix is now a bit tainted by everything that has happened, and whether other companies are willingly using it again,” Adam Knight said.