Buy your apples from Abraham Aardvark

It is not just researchers and co-authors who benefit from having names close to the beginning of the alphabet:

The names of traders should not matter if information is symmetric across traders. By examining export data from Chinese customs, we find persistent lexicographic biases in firm-level export records. Firms whose names are lexicographically earlier in the Chinese-character rank export more to countries that have greater language proximities to Chinese, while firms whose names are lexicographically earlier in the English-romanization rank export more to countries that have greater language proximities to English. The lexicographic biases signify linguistic visibility as a source of comparative advantage in international trade.

Here is the full paper by Hua Cheng, Cui Hu, and Ben G. Li.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Same reason when people shop using the (electronic?!) Yellow Pages, they always pick "AAA eCONomic Advisors" as their vendor of choice!?

Yellow Pages? Did you ride a triceratops when you were a kid?

Didn't read the paper so perhaps it is addressed but considering potential hysteresis from the days of print and paper phone books might be worth looking at.

And most electronic listing I suspect default to some alphabetical ordering for the initial display.

This explains why I am a homeless meth user.

That’s “A. Kevin Lewis” to you, sir.

Buy your apples from Apple and most everything else from Amazon.

Don’t forget Alphabet.

Selling my shares in Zoom, they’re screwed.

A very close Mexican friend, Aguilar, told me that after the college received 15 requests to be interviewed by companies, while his friend Romero only 2, even if they had more or less the same grades. He was curious, so he started to ask in the interviews the logic of it. Turns out most HR departments work with a certain number of candidates to interview, say ten, and they almost invariably start with the list provided by the universities, that are in alphabetical order.

It is an amazing market failure. There is a great opportunity for HR people simply to start from the bottom of the list and get similar candidates at a much lower price.

Now that I think about it, the two famous Mexican revolutionaries were Villa and Zapata.

Is it a market failure or does the persistence point more to efficient markets so the bias towards the start of the alphabets does no harm for consumers and keeps producers disciplined on quality and price?

And don't forget Zorro

The abstract is not a great example of clarity, but I read it to relate to trade between countries with very different languages (e.g., Mandarin vs. English). It isn't order (first to last) that is the bias but "language proximities". What does that mean? Does it mean bias (by Chinese firms) in favor of a firm with a name in English that is similar to the name in Mandarin?

Are you criticizing some people's English Ray? In these times that is very brave.

I am not an expert but I think it is saying that English orders its alphabet from A to Z. Some Chinese names are earlier in that Western alphabetical order than others - Chan before Zhang.

But China has its own system of ordering Chinese characters. How else would they have a dictionary? In that ordering Zhang may be before Chan.

So in countries that use English, Mr Chan gets more orders than Mr Zhang. But in countries where people are familiar with Chinese characters and hence China's own ordering system, it may be that Mr Zhang gets more orders than Mr Chan.

What they are saying is that people are lazy and don't look very far when doing business.

That's exactly my interpretation too, and I'm not sure that there's another plausible one.

Traditionally, Chinese dictionaries were sorted by how many strokes were needed to create the character. That might sound strange but Chinese characters are written in a very specific order starting in the upper left-hand corner. I.e. just by looking at a character, you know what strokes are needed to create it. Even the US does this a certain extent e.g. I think just about every American will write the letter "t" by writing a vertical line from top to bottom and then a horizontal line from left to right. Two strokes, now you could look it up in a Chinese-style dictionary.

This article confirms what I saw in China almost 20 years ago: with increasing use of English, translations to and from English, and thus increasing use of PinYin, dictionaries are increasingly likely to be sorted alphabetically based on their Pinyin transliteration.

So a really clever international entrepreneur will think of a company name that not only starts with the letter A when written in Pinyin, but that uses few brushstrokes when written in Chinese!

So, for national security Western countries should just rename Huawei to Wah-Wei.

Trump should call them NoWei. Get it? No wei!

This is why Wile E. Coyote only ordered from Acme.

Paywalled so not going to read. Just wondering if the authors put any controls in for number or traders. In other words if there are say 10 to 15 top suppliers does the lexicographic bias persist or go away?

When I did my MBA 20 years ago, the school's recruiting service made a book of everyone's CVs, in name order.

Students in the first quarter of the CV book averaged 3 times the number of interview invitations that those in the last quarter.

The Recruiting service didn't see that as their problem...

I was suprised more students in the last quartile of names weren't more upset...

I prefer Aaron Aardvark.

I think his fist name is Aaron.

re: "linguistic visibility as a source of comparative advantage in international trade." The proper term is "competitive advantage," since "comparative advantage" means something else entirely.

When I start my shipping company I will call it Advanced Shipping Systems. What could go wrong?

Perhaps related: Heinrich Schopenhauer intended his son to follow him into international commerce and thus gave him a name whose spelling was the same in English, French, and German. Alas, Heinrich died 17 years later, and Arthur developed other plans.

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