Yesterday, during Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” presentation, the company unveiled their new personal assistant software for the iOS. “Siri,” as they’re calling it, will use natural language processing to answer questions, perform actions and be a general helper for users.
Now, word has been cruising around the net that “siri” means a lot of interesting things in a lot of different languages. Well, guess what, we’re here to squash one of those claims.
“Siri” does not mean “ass” in Japanese. Ass in Japanese is “Shiri,” or, as it’s written in hiragana, しり. In writing, put plainly, Apple has not made a big, cultural goof.
However, colloquially, “Siri” would be pronounced “Shiri.”
Here’s why, in brief: Japanese people can’t say “si.” They say “shi.” Their alphabet has no “si” sound. So, “siri” is pronounced “shiri” in their language. “Shiri” means ass. “Siri” means nothing.
That said, when Apple advertisements start running for the personal assistant software, it will always appear as it’s written around the world, “Siri.” If Apple goes with the name Siri in Japan, they’ll write it out in romanji (English letters), not in hiragana.
A line of Japanese text may look like this: Siriを使ってください！Or, “Please use Siri!” Brand names are almost always written with their proper alphabet.
Here’s the thing, though, Siri is currently unavailable in Japan. The kicker here is that people are getting worked up over nothing. Have a look for yourselves, the new Japanese iPhone 4S features page doesn’t even list Siri. When Apple unleashes this service in the land of the rising sun, they may not even use the Siri name.