When President Obama pardoned two turkeys named Honest and Abe this Thanksgiving, most Americans understood the reference to President Abraham Lincoln.
But in China, a translation mix-up saw the second turkey’s name rendered not as the one-syllable “Abe” but with two characters, pronounced “ah-bay,” the same as those used in the name of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
That led to some merriment here, with Netizens wondering if Obama had in fact compared his Japanese counterpart and ally to a bird.
"Abe should feel happy, because its American daddy is thinking about it," one social media user wrote, while others were more direct. “Abe is just a chicken,” wrote one.
Many Chinese people resent Japan for not making amends for war crimes committed during its occupation of their country during World War II, while Abe is reviled by many for visiting a war shrine in Tokyo seen as a symbol of Japanese nationalism.
According to the Associated Press, the faulty translation of Abe was published by state-run China Radio International and picked up by several other outlets.
A man who answered the CRI news hotline told the AP that editorial staff there had used the Web to translate the name Abe.
The tradition of the president granting a “pardon” to a turkey at Thanksgiving has happened every year for the last quarter century, although Lincoln may have been the first to spare one of the birds from the dinner table, reportedly because his son Jack had taken a liking to it.
In China, though, one social media user suggested a more suitable use of a presidential pardon this year.
"The main man pardoning a turkey this year should be Emperor Putin,” he wrote.
That appears unlikely: Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkey’s shooting down of one of his country’s warplanes this week a “stab in the back,” while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called on Thursday for tough sanctions against the country.
Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report.