In China, you really can’t get away from the Friendlies. They’re on t-shirts, hats, sneakers, pins, backpacks, keychains, earrings and necklaces. They’ve been made into charms, toys and giant paper-mache effigies at the airport. Back when we had CCTV9 in Kaifaqu, I couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing the Friendlies skipping though the air on the CCTV Olympic countdown.
Their names are Bei-bei (the blue one), Jing-jing (the panda), Huan-huan (red), Ying-ying(yellow) and Nini (green), which spells out Bei jing huan ying ni, Beijing welcomes you. For months I thought Huan-huan was actually ??, Fire Fire, because he’s red and my Chinese needs a little work. He’s supposed to represent the Olympic torch, so besides thinking huan and huo are the same word, it’s a pretty reasonable mistake.
“Firstly, Friendly is somewhat an ambiguous name, which could refer both to friendly people and friendly matches,” a Dr. Li from Lanzhou University was quoted as saying on the site. “Secondly, the term Friendlies has a similar pronunciation to ‘friendless’ and thirdly, the spelling of Friendlies could be split as ‘friend lies’.” (Do they mean on knockoff products?)
Laura Fitch, a Canadian who works in China as news editor, welcomed the change, saying the name Friendlies sounds a “a little bit childish” and “doesn’t really have a meaning.”
Right. One Man Bandwidth has already pointed out that the Olympics are supposed to be about friendly people AND friendly matches. He also mentions that Fuwa sounds a little childish and doesn’t have an English meaning.
I hope this means that my Friendlies keychains are now collectors’ items!
If the Beijing Olympics committee members are bored (and with everything on or ahead of schedule, why wouldn’t they be?) and looking to make changes, might I suggest a new Paraolympics mascot? Perhaps one that doesn’t look like a psychedelic cow?