The Intel Tune in Chinese

You know the little 5-note musical tune that Intel uses everywhere their logo shows up? Yeah, you know the one. It’s very easy to remember. I just became aware recently that this little musical tune has a translation into Chinese. Here it is:

Intel tune in Chinese

So the Chinese is:


The English translation of this would be:

> The light! Wait for the light, wait for the light!

This is amazingly appropriate, considering the “English version” of the “lyrics” would be something like:

> Dunnn…. Dun-dun dun-dun!

Not quite as articulate, I gotta say.

The whole idea of “translating a a musical tune into a spoken language” is bizaere, though.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Bizarre, even.

  2. See, I was interpreting it as purely sound-based (mostly because I first thought they were two different sounds because of my lack of familiarity with simplified characters), but that’s a pretty clever idea!

    • Yeah, what makes it especially interesting to me is that the tones of 灯 and 等 are high and low, respectively, and match the rise and fall of the Intel tune. Cool!

  3. One of the language issues I struggled with when writing this post is what to call the Intel “tune.” It’s not a “jingle,” right? In my experience, jingle always have lyrics. Is there a better industry term for this little musical blurb that gets tightly tied to a brand?

  4. Taken literally, it’s almost like telling the people behind you in traffic to “wait for the light!” as in, “stop honking the light is red you idiots”.

  5. Jason Schuurman Says: April 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    And now let us all take a moment to reflect on the ridiculous-decals-on-cars situation here in China.

  6. Neat! I love this little discovery. It is also true in Cantonese where 灯 is dang1 (higher) and I don’t know which pronunciation system this is and 等 is dang2 (lower). It’s really interesting how a word with meaning is used to describe what Westerners will accept as “music”/jingle/soundmark.

  7. This kind of thing may have been in use as far back as the Shi Jing. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

    “the image of the fish signifies sexual fertility. Knowing that the osprey is a fish-eating bird, it is not hard to see that this is a poem concerned with the hunt for a sexual partner. Indeed, the sound of the osprey’s cry, as written onomatopeically by the poet, confirms this, guan means “to join, to bring together.” The poet heard the osprey calling out: “Join, join.”

    Here’s the relevant part of the poem — 關雎

    關關雎鳩, 在河之洲.

    “Guan guan (or perhaps, “join join”) cries the ospreys, on the islet in the river.”

    By the way, 關關 during the time of the Shi Jing sounded much more like a bird’s cry than it does today. There was a /gr-/ initial cluster (the /-r-/ is an alveolar flap), giving us something like “gruan”. You can here a recording of this poem read in Old Chinese — the common language spoken during the time of the Shi Jing — on Youtube:

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