Indian anchor fired over 'Eleven Jinping' mix-up

September 22, 2014 17:23
Chinese President Xi Jinping is shown with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to India. Photo: Bloomberg

The rule of thumb in presidential protocol is that when the leader of your country is hosting a foreign dignitary, don't say embarrassing words about them.

Never mispronounce their names, for instance. 

But a certain news anchor at a state-owned Indian television station either had no idea or she had too much football on her mind.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping had his name come up in upper case -- XI JINPING -- on the teleprompter, Nidhi Mehra called him "Eleven Jinping".

Mehra, a substitute anchor at TV station Doordarshan, promptly got the sack.

The mix-up happened last week while Xi was on a three-day visit to India as guest of newly installed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BBC Hindi reported. 

The station called the error grave but the sacking received a mix reaction from Indian newscasters.

While Doordarshan broadcaster Shammi Narang said somebody needed to "bear the brunt of the mistake", NDTV anchor Rini Simon said it is "unreasonable to assume that just because the name has been in the news, everyone is supposed to get the pronunciation correct".

Pronunciation of Chinese surnames in mandarin Pinyin is a headache for some in the media. Xi, for instance is pronounced "She".

English speakers had an easier time relating to Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, whose surname sounds like “Who” and former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao who reminded then of “When”.

Still, more complicated Chinese names have often caused confusion, as happened when a Chinese exchange student was introducing two of his friends and himself at a welcoming party in the US.

“She is He”, he said, referring to a girl surnamed He.

“He is She”, pointing at the boy surnamed Xi (She).

“And, I’m You." (Yue).

Careful not to call LI KEQIANG "51 Keqiang".


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EJ Insight reporter