World: Pinyin Perils

Groans from the libraries

"Xurely you zhest," wrote Nancy May in a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe. "Now 1 have trouble with dzylophone and dzerox, and I still can't pronounce Xiaoping." Eugene Wu, director of Harvard University's Yenching Library, sounded depressed. "I don't even want to think about it," he moaned.

Ms. May's oddly spelled worry and Mr. Wu's woe were both responses to the virtually worldwide acceptance by news organizations and academic institutions of a different system of spelling Chinese names in English, called Pinyin. The changeover was started by...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!