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Mists of Pandaria beta: A guide to pandaren pronunciation

Anne Stickney

Mists of Pandaria brings us an all-new continent with a ton of brand-new races, quests, storylines, and characters. Along with those characters comes a whole host of names that look a lot easier to pronounce than they actually are. With names commonly found in the troll race, it's a simple matter of navigating your way around all of the apostrophes. Old Gods, for the most part, sound just like they are spelled. But with the names you find in Mists, there's an actual precedent for pronunciation, and most words definitely don't sound like they look.

Simon, one of our readers who also happens to be fluent in Chinese, took some time out of his busy day to drop an email in my inbox detailing just a few of the Chinese words, their meaning, and their actual pronunciations. According to Simon, many of the names you'll encounter in Mists are actually written using the standard PinYin system, which, when accurate, is usually pronounced differently than how it looks.

PinYin: huǒ

Huo, pictured above, is the spirit of fire that new panderen encounter on the Wandering Isle. The word Huo literally translates to fire. When pronounced correctly, it should sound like "whoa," or a slurring "who-oh." The word is one syllable; to hear the correct pronunciation, you can pay a visit to Google Translate.

PinYin: shū

Shu, pictured above, is the spirit of water, also found on the Wandering Isle. According to Simon, the word choice here actually means stream rather than water, and it's a somewhat archaic usage of the word that you usually find in the context of acupuncture. I don't necessarily believe this is an oversight on Blizzard's part, because Shu the water spirit is more like a playful, babbling brook or stream of water than simply water itself. In fact, Shu's favorite game is sending players up into the air on a stream of water, suggesting the word choice was pretty deliberate.

Shu is pronounced as "shooh," one syllable. To hear the correct pronunciation, visit Google Translate.

Chinese: 污垢
PinYin: wū gòu

Wugou, pictured above, is the spirit of earth. Simon pointed out that the translation for this particular word is a little funny to native speakers, because the word more commonly refers to filth. Although I suppose if you were rolling around in dirt all the time, you'd be pretty filthy, more than likely. Wugou's first appearance has him indulging in a nap -- perhaps it's a dirt nap? OK, maybe I'm stretching here.

Wugou is pronounced "woo go," with two syllables. To hear the correct pronunciation, visit Google Translate.

Chinese: 大风
PinYin: dà fēng

Dafeng, pictured above, is the spirit of wind. You'll notice with all of these spirits, each has an animal counterpart -- Huo is the cat, Shu is the fish, Wugou is the cow, and Dafeng is the bird. Dafeng translates to big wind or gale, which is appropriate given the gusts of winds you have to make your way through to get to him.

Dafeng sounds nothing like it looks. It's pronounced "dah fong," two syllables. Listen to the correct pronunciation on Google Translate.

There are two pandaren philosophies that you encounter on the Wandering Isle, and they too have their own root in Chinese and specific meanings. These meanings make a lot of sense in the context of both the philosophies themselves and where the followers of these philosophies eventually end up throwing their allegiances.

Chinese: 火金
PinYin: huǒ jīn

Huojin translates to fire and gold, money or metal. Gold is classically used to represent metal, because gold is considered the purest metal. The word Huojin is also reference to the Chinese elements known as Wu Xing. The concept of fire and metal works well with the concept behind the Huojin -- the Huojin philosophy is that inaction is the greatest injustice. The Huojin are all about the spark of reaction. These pandaren don't wait for something to happen; they take the initiative and go with gut instinct over endlessly searching for options.

The pandaren who end up allying with the Horde are represented by Ji Firepaw, a follower of the Huojin philosophy. It's only natural that they end up with the Horde, largely due to the Horde's tendency to act rather than weigh options. When you think about the feel of the Horde and Horde architecture, fire and metal is a pretty apt description -- so the Huojin fit perfectly here. Huojin is pronounced "whoa jin," two syllables. Huo is pronounced just as detailed above, and jin is simply added to that. To hear the correct pronunciation, head over to Google Translate.

Chinese: 土水
PinYin: tǔ shuǐ

Tushui translates to earth and water, another reference to the elements known as Wu Xing. The followers of the Tushui philosophy favor living a life through meditation, training, and moral conviction. For a follower of the Tushui, the philosophy lies behind adapting to the world like water, moving with it and finding the most natural solution rather than making a hasty judgment. The process of meditation grounds the follower in the path and allows them to follow the path like a stream, exploring all possible results before making the best decision possible.

The pandaren who end up allying with the Alliance are represented by Aysa Cloudsinger, a follower of the Tushui philosophy. Since the Tushui seem to favor logic and moral conviction over rash action, they fit perfectly with the Alliance's way of thinking. And when you think Alliance, you of course think of the color of blue -- the color of water. So again, it's a pretty natural fit for the Tushui. Tushui uses the more literal word for water, shui -- and it's pronounced "too shway," two syllables. To listen to the correct pronunciation, head to Google Translate.

The Temple of the Five Dawns and the Wu Xing

Simon pointed out that there are actually five elements in the Wu Xing -- the four used for the Huojin and Tushui, fire, metal, earth and water, and a fifth that isn't mentioned at all, wood. Interestingly, the main structure in the Wandering Isle is the Temple of the Five Dawns. The reference to five dawns may correlate to the five elements of the Wu Xing. The centerpiece of the Temple is a giant tree with a wood statue at the base. Also interesting is that wind doesn't factor into the five elements, but a closer look at the Wu Xing reveals that wind is part and parcel of the wood element. So all five are represented, to a degree.

And the philosophy of the Wu Xing seems to encapsulate the philosophy of the pandaren perfectly, as well. Wu Xing places heavy emphasis on interaction amongst the elements. The elements mutually generate and consume each other, each having the ability to keep another in check. It's a system of delicate balance, and the continued absence or dominance of any one element leads to a vicious cycle of consumption and eventually collapse.

Though the term Wu Xing doesn't seem to have made its way into Pandaria at all, the philosophy behind it still applies. In Mists, the Horde, representing fire and metal, attempts to dominate the Alliance, representing water and earth. The results of these altercations between Alliance and Horde are literally throwing the world out of balance, which ties into the theme behind Mists.

These are just a few of the references found in Mists. Simon also pointed out that proper names are nearly impossible to accurately translate via phonetics, and with the exception of common surnames, Chinese people often ask each other how to write the rest of their names. So individual translations of character names seems to be up in the air, for now, although there may be a few more joke names here and there that can actually be translated.

What I love about all of this is that it highlights the fact that there was definite planning on Blizzard's part when it came to the theme behind Mists, right down to the names of the various characters. Though we may all stumble through pronouncing proper names, at least this guide will help with a few of the basics. Thanks again to Simon, who provided the wealth of information and the links to pronunciations as well!

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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