Facebook isn’t all that popular in Japan (Mixi is currently king there), but it doesn’t meant that people don’t know about it. After all, the movie “The Social Network” came out in Japan, and I’m sure that Facebook hits the news every once in a while. But what about Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg? Apparently in a recent poll, Japanese women just thought he was a hamburger (for good reason, too!).
In Japanese, the word ハンバーグ (hanbaagu) refers to hamburger steak. This shouldn’t be confused with ハンバーガ (hanbaaga), which refers to those things us Americans order three meals a day from McDonalds (fourth meal, of course, is タコス from Taco Bell). The second half of Mark Zuckerberg’s name, when translated to Japanese, is very similar to the word “burger” from the word for hamburger steak, which makes it sound very hamburgerish.
ザッカー (zakkaa) バーグ (baagu). That’s how you pronounce his last name in Japanese. The バーグ (baagu) is the same バーグ from the word ハンバーグ (hamburger steak). That’s where the confusion sets in.
When asked what “Zuckerberg” is in Japan, 35.6% of women polled thought he was a hamburger. Here’s what else they came up with:
35.6% said “Zuckerberg” is a hamburger.
19.6% thought “Zuckerberg” had something to do with soccer, because the first part of his name, ザッカー (zakkaa) is very similar to the word for soccer, サッカー(sakkaa).
14.4% got the correct answer or something close to the correct answer.
11% chose something miscellaneous.
7.6% thought it was some kind of abbreviation.
The really fun part, though, is when you start breaking down the answers. For example, one person thought that “The Zuckerburger” was a new menu item at McDonalds. My favorite is the person who thought it was a soccer ball shaped hamburger steak. That combines #1 and #2.
P.S. If you don’t know katakana, and want to understand why Zuckerberg is like Hamburger in Japanese, I’m going to (secretly, just for people reading this article) make the Katakana lessons on TextFugu free for a while, because it’ll help you enjoy this article more effectively. If you don’t know hiragana yet, though, you should learn that first (and to do that, you should start here)… anyways, carry on.
Facebook In Japan
One thing that also stood out a bit to me was the answers from the people who got the question right (and kind of knew who The Zuck is). There were only six examples, but two of them had to do with Mixi. One was “He made America’s version of Mixi” and the other was “a person at the Mixi America Branch” (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t actually exist). My favorite in this category, however, was “(Zuckerberg) is the name of the person who made the Internet” (c’mon, that’s Al Gore).
The examples on Mixi, though, are pretty interesting. I’ve written about Mixi, as well as some of the differences (though I’ve mostly just written about how to join and get in via various loopholes… which don’t really work anymore, so don’t ask). Mixi is the big SNS in Japan (though Gree has overtaken them recently… but it’s a bit different), and it’s really tailor made especially for Japanese people.
- People rarely show pictures of themselves for their profile picture on Mixi (compare that to Facebook, where nearly everyone does).
- People rarely upload pictures of themselves for albums (try doing that on Facebook… Where’s your face!?).
- Real names are hidden and nicknames are king (Facebook has a use-your-real-name-or-get-out policy).
- People on Mixi are generally worried about people knowing who they are (Facebook, it’s really easy to find out a lot of info about anybody).
It’s mainly a cultural thing, but Facebook’s openness is basically making it hard to grab a big foothold in Japan (though I think that will change in the next 5 years), though one article I read thinks Facebook is in its own little “professional networking” niche (which I can confirm through what I’ve seen too… pretty sure all my Japanese friends are CEO’s of startups). If you want to know more about Facebook in Japan, this is a great NYT article.
Other “Zuckerberg Meanings”
To close things up, though, here were some other fun explanations people had:
“Something young people say when they’ve seen something unbelievable” (everyone should start yelling “ZUCKERBERG” when you see something awesome).
One person thought it had to do with a lot of bugs because of the バーグ (baagu) sounding like バグ (bagu), which sounds like the English word for “bug.”
“Something you say when you when you want to express the feelings of ‘You idiot!’ or ‘Quit Screwin’ Around'”
“A store like H&M that came from Europe”
“A term for when you have a lot of small things / accessories in your car, and it is becoming dirty.”
P.S. Thanks to @HirokoTabuchi for tweeting about this survey. You should Follow Her On Twitter if you’re interested in smart Japanese things.