Samsung Product Names

Samsung is not a company I am a fan of. They have been sued by everyone for patent infringement, have colluded with the disgraced and recently impeached South Korean President, and that isn’t even to mention that their products are dangerous, and I’m not just talking about their phones.

But one of the weirdest things about the massive Korean Corporation is its naming scheme. Specifically how they name global products that are unable to be correctly pronounced by Koreans.

The first odd one is the exploding “Galaxy” line of phones. In English, this word is pronounced as /'gæl-ək-si/. However, "see" /si/ is not phonologically correct in Korean. All instances of /si/ are rendered as /ʃi/, making it the Samsung Galak-she.

Why select a name that is unable to be pronounced correctly by the very people who work at the company and use the device? Surely there is another name as cool as Galakshe Galaxy but more universal?

But recently Samsung did it again with their new voice assistant, Bixby /'bɪks-bi/. There is no "cap i" /ɪ/ in Korean. This is the "short i" sound which differentiates "hit" from "heat" in English. But there's more. The "ks" consonant cluster is also disallowed by Korean. A /ɯ/ vowel is inserted between them. This renders Bixby as Beeks-uh-bee to the English ear.

Samsung has created "beaks-uh-be" to be used on the Galak-she pone. (There is no label-dental fricative in Korean either, so a voiceless bilabial stop is used.) Why? There are plenty of sounds that many languages share, especially those in the countries where smartphones are sold. Apple's "Siri" is much closer to being universally pronounced, despite the North-American r /ɹ/, which is often made into a tap, so ending something like "seedy" to English speakers.

If I had been in the Samsung boardroom, I'd have suggested "Mimi" for the virtual assistant. It's a human name and it's about the most pronounceable word on Earth. Names are hard and "Galaxy" is a great name. But for such a universal product, shouldn't the name also be as close to universal as possible?