We all love a good laugh and branding cockups don’t ever fail to deliver. I bet the new brand decision makers for these well-known brand names most certainly weren’t too happy – but it’s great entertainment for us. Who in their right mind would name their company ‘F***ing Hell’ – I kid you not. Read on to find out about that and many other hilarious branding cock-ups.
Baniff translated a slogan claiming finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather”. When this was translated into Spanish it comes out as “Fly Naked.”Clairol
Clairol marketed a curling iron as “Mist Stick”. Unfortunately “mist” in German is a slang word for manure.
When Colgate launched a product in France it decided upon the name brand name “Cue”. Unfortunately if they had done their market research they would have realised that “Cue” is also the name of a French pornographic magazine. This must have caused confusion for customers shopping in the supermarket when asking for Cue to brush their teeth with.
The well known American beer brand Coors suffered an unfortunate mishap when it launched it’s product in Spain. Their marketing team chose the slogan “turn it loose” which in Spain is a colloquial term for diarrhoea.
World famous vacuum cleaner manufacturer Electrolux chose the slogan “Nothing suck like an Electrolux” when they launched their product in America. Of course sucks is a reference in American slang that means bad or poor. Of course this is also considered and urban legend of translation but would still be funny if it were true!
Ford launched a car in Brazil called the Ford Pinto. Unfortunately in Brazillian Portuguese Pinto also means “tiny male genitals”
American meat processing and poultry farming company Perdue Farms used the slogan “it takes a tough man to make tender chicken” to try and appeal to some of the masculine male customers in Spain. However when this slogan is translated into Spanish it comes through as “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate”.
Everyone knows Ikea right? Ikea is a world recognised furniture store that began in Sweden. However when they launched in Thailand they didn’t realise that some of their Swedish names mean “sex” or “third base” in Thai. Also in China Ikea’s Chinese website advertised a stuffed wolf toy called Lufsig, or Lo Mo Sai (路姆西). This unfortunately contained a homophobe of Hai (閪), a profane Cantonese word meaning “vagina”. The name itself could be written as Lo Mo Hai (老母閪) which means “mothers Vagina”.
Fast food restaurant chain KFC made some Chinese customers feel uncomfortable or just confused with their slogan “finger licking good”. When the restaurant chain launched in China their slogan translated to “eat your fingers off”.
Mercedes Benz launched in China under the brand name “Bensi”. Which in China means “rush to die”.
Sportswear manufacturer Nike was forced to recall thousands of it’s products when the design on some of it’s products was deemed too similar to the Arabic word for Allah.
Electrical giant Panasonic launched a new web ready PC using a Woody Woodpecker theme. Not too bad in itself except the slogan they used was “Touch Woody : The Internet Ready Pecker”.
The makers of premium pens Parker Pens launched in Mexico using it’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Unfortunately this was mistranslated as “It won’t leak in your product and make you pregnant.
Iranian consumer goods company Paxam marketed it laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow”. This resulted in packaging been labelled as “Barf Soap”.
American branded Puffs Facial Tissues, from Procter and Gamble, entered into the German market. Unfortunately they didn’t realise that “Puff” is a German slang word for brothel.
The American Dairy Association used it’s slogan “Got Milk?” as it’s slogan in Spanish speaking markets. This was translated as “Are you lactating?”. Bit of a personal question don’t you think?
Procter and Gamble brand Vicks moved into the German market with it’s cough drops. In German the pronunciation of “V” is actually “F” which made “Vick” slang for sexual intercourse in Germany.
When the name of the Toyota MR2 is pronounced in French it is phonetically similar to “mede” in French, which is their word for “shit”.
Motoring manufacturer Mitsubishi found that their Pajero product name as the same as the Spanish word for “wanker” when they launched in Spain.
Japanese motor company Honda initially launched their Honda Jazz as the Honda Fitta. However when their marketing team contacted their Swedish office with the name they found out that Fitta is a slang word for “vagina” in Swedish and Norwegian. They promptly decided on the Jazz although Japan kept the “Fit” brand for it’s home market.
I know what your thinking. How rude. How profane. However Fucking Hell is the name of a German Pilsner beer brewed in Germany. When they launched the brand in 2010 they upset the European Union due to the nature of the word and it’s expletive nature in the English language. However the brand name refers to an actual town in Austria which is in fact called Fucking whereas as Hell in Germany refers to pale lager. They launched an appeal against the original EU decision to disallow this name and they won.
Below is a short list of some actual products that are available on sale in various countries. Are they marketing mistakes or are they genius in advertising? Decide for yourselves!
- Crapsy Fruit, a French breakfast cereal
Alu-Fanny, a French aluminium foil
Pschitt, a French fizzy soft drink
Atum Bom, a Portuguese brand of tinned tuna
Kack, Danish confectionery
Plopp, a Swedish chocolate bar
Mukk, an Italian yogurt
Bimbo, a brand of bread in Spain and the Americas
Slag, a Belgian lager
Kum Onit, a German make of pencil sharpeners
How much do you think the ‘cock-ups’ cost each company? Get in touch with us for professional translations, that are localised and right on the mark – every time!
How Lingua Translations can help with your sporting needs
Here at Lingua Translations, one of the many services we offer is language services in the field of sports (“field” – get it?!). We have provided a range of services – mainly to sports teams and agencies – and perhaps we could help you next!
Whether it’s translating articles to broaden to global appeal of major football clubs, to interpreting for new players, or even teaching them English, we are here to help you reach your goals (I’ll stop with the puns soon) with any sporting matter, no matter how big or small.
Sports translation? We got this!
We translate and proofread match reports and articles for one of the biggest clubs in world football right now, while also translating promo’s involving a major betting agency and various teams including not only a Premier League winning club, but also a 5-times European cup winning team too! Besides translating articles, reports and promos, we’ve also been asked to translate medical documents needed for a player’s transfer. This is of course top-secret stuff as any leak could jeopardise the transfer, or alert other teams who might try and snap the player up instead! With Lingua Translations, you are safe in the knowledge that your documents remain 100% confidential.
We also have experience with interpreting for major football clubs as well, including helping them interpret during football camps for kids (run by another Premier League and Champions League winning club), as well as helping players during their medical before a transfer. Once the players had signed, we also offered them English language lessons in our office to help them settle. For players coming to a new country and culture, this can be a great help!
While a lot of our recent sports work has revolved around football (or “soccer”, for our American clients!), our linguists also have experience and knowledge in a variety of sports and related subjects for example things like cycling and athletics, but also things such as physiotherapy for sports injuries.
Whatever your sporting-related language requirements – whether you are an internationally supported sports team, or an individual amateur athlete – why not get in touch? You can visit our website at www.Lingua-Translations.com, or you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Could you interpret a birth?
These days interpreters are needed for everything! As an agency we get various requests for legal proceedings, events, interviews, football players, medical issues… the list goes on. The range of needs for interpreting is immense. But what could you interpret? Legal can be a difficult area to interpret as you can be dealing with some very technical and sensitive situations. What about interpreting a labour? Could you do that?
I was casually watching ‘one born every minute’ (preparing myself for when I’ll be in labour in July!) and there was a Persian family requiring an interpreter for the birth of their child. It made me think, could I interpret something like that?! It is a special time in the parents lives and you’d be there helping them understand what is going on, and helping the doctors and midwifes understand how mum is feeling.
To give a bit of history of the family
They had two children in Iran through caesarean under general anaesthetic. They then moved to Britain and were learning English and became pregnant with their third child. Although, between them they could understand a lot of what the midwifes were saying, there was still a language barrier. An interpreter was needed to help the labour run smoothly.
They were planning on having a caesarean for the 3rd child, but unlike in Iran, we do not use general anaesthetic for the procedure. As you can imagine the woman was a little worried about being awake for the procedure. The interpreter was there to help them understand what the consultants, doctors and midwifes needed the mum and dad to understand, along with the mum being able to explain how she feels and what was happening with her.
From a language point of view, the conversation would’ve been easy for any medical trained interpreter to assist with. The difficult part for the interpreter would’ve to be present during what it a very special and unique time for the parents. Especially considering in Iran the fathers are not normally allowed to be present for the births.
Sometimes we forget how vast a profession interpreting can be. On the news we only see interpreters in a legal point of view, but there are so many areas of life where interpreters are needed. So, my question is: what could you interpret? At Lingua Translations we aim to find the best suited interpreter for of our clients. Could you interpret something as unique as a labour?
Raining Cats and Dogs
You might’ve seen my earlier blog about our fixations with weather. This got me thinking – are we the only nation? But more importantly, do other nations have some random way of saying its raining quite heavily out there. I’ve checked- Britain is not the only country to get heavy downpours – just a shame most of ours happen in summer.
So, here’s what I found!
Cats and Dogs is a very English way of saying its raining. Obviously, you could technically say raining cats and dogs in any language- but would people understand what you are trying to say? Here’s how some of the rest of the world would say it:
The Catalans have gone with something just a weird, but without the animal cruelty: Està plovent a bots i barrals (barrels and casks)
The French have a few variations with what they would say: Il pleut des grenouilles / à seaux / comme vache qui pisse – meaning raining frogs (bit of a stereotype there!), buckets and a random one, like a pissing cow…… Never to be outdone by the English clearly!
The Greeks went with the simple Βρέχει καρεκλοπόδαρα (Brékhei kareklopódara) – It’s raining chair legs. Just as bizarre as the pets… but where is the rest of the chair?
Iceland go with the more apocalyptic version of Það rignir eld og brennustein – raining fire and brimstone. Think I’d prefer cats falling on me than brimstone!
Korea seems to be one of the more sensible countries when describing very bad rain: 비가 억수같이 쏟아진다 – Rain is pouring down like a torrential downpour. Hitting the nail on the head there! No confusion!
Not sure how often the Spaniards would use this version but I found it interesting enough. Estan lloviendo hasta maridos It’s even raining husbands. When the rain is that bad, it brings husbands with it!
I’m Welsh second language – but when speaking about weather down south, I’ve never heard these versions, but they made me chuckle! Maybe I was hanging out with the wrong people! Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn / cyllyll a ffyrc – Also known as It’s raining old ladies and sticks / knives and forks
The Military Alphabet
Many people know the military alphabet, maybe not all of it, but a fair few of them! From my time working in a government office, you need to know this alphabet. This alphabet does differ a bit from the American one. In America, Sierra can be someone’s name: Ciara. So, they may use Sugar instead of Sierra. Guessing they are not overly fond of the work Yankee either, so they tend to use Yellow.
A few days my husband ‘mocked’ me for spelling my name like this. ‘J for Juliet, U for Uniform, L for Lima, I for India, A for Alfa. He reminded me that my name is technically Julia, so why not J for Julia, not Juliet. Well… that sounds crazy to me! It’s always J for Juliet! If not, I might as well as be Phoebe!
“P as in Phoebe
H as in hoebe
O as in oebe
E as in ebe
B as in b-be
and E as in… ‘ello there, mate!”
Granted, this is amazing! And I wish I had the guts to stand there and say my name like that, but I have been trained in the military alphabet, not the Phoebe alphabet!
What about those pesky people who use random words? Anyone who has worked in a call centre has more than likely heard these:
A for Aisle
C for Cue
G for Gnome
K for Knight
S for See
Y for You
You see where I’m going with this!! There are some words where you can attempt the ‘sarcastic alphabet’ and absolutely confuse the person you are speaking to.
The great British bake off
Always a highlight of the autumn season is watching 12 great bakers go into a tent and bake some of the most outrageous cakes, breads, patisseries that you’ve ever seen! And this years Bake Off has given us more excitement than most. The challenges set have been new, innovative and left some of us running to the shops to try and find the supermarkets own version!
Us Brits aren’t exactly known for our bakes! You look to the French or the Italians for inspiration. We clearly never created ‘les Misérables’. But that hasn’t stopped us from creating some unusual food in the past. Such as Clanger! Half savoury, half sweet… Never heard of it either, not sure I’ll want to make it, but still very interesting to see the variations you could make!
This year’s bake off looked at different areas to give us their weekly inspiration. From Caramel week (ohh the stroopwafles!) to Victorian week (good old Clangers), to Italian week (cannoli, but one did not do it the Sicilian way!)…. The food journey has been exhilarating! There was even Pizza as a technical challenge… It’s true that when living in France I did have a dessert pizza with pear and chocolate, but its rare to get dessert pizza here… Anyways, they made a Margarita…
There are other Bake Offs!?
The great British bake off is a British staple! Can’t exactly get anymore British than this right? Imagine my surprise when I was told our neighbours over the channel have their own bake off! Le Grand Bake Off! Ok, that’s not actually the name….. ‘Le meilleur pâtissier’ Not too bad a name I guess. But it’s crazy to think that there’s more than one bake off! The tent looks exactly the same, the set up, the ‘technical challenge’ element. Even the work stations are identical. Looks like after the British Bake off finishes each year, we auction off the tent for a few months.
The bake off arrived in France in 2012 and looks like it has gripped the nation…. As well as neighbouring Belgium… Bet they love chocolate week over there! They have used the Great British Bake off as their inspiration which aired two years before Le meilleur pâtissier’. Let’s hope the participants of Le meilleur pâtissier don’t have a Cornish Pasty challenge!
This made me think…. Who else could have a Bake off spin off?! Well… Ireland for one! The Great Irish bake off only lasted for 3 seasons though. Brazil have ‘Bake off Brazil’ (Mão na Massa) which started in 2015 and is going well. There is also a Great Aussie Bake off (Clearly there is a BBQ week with this show!) Canada have the Great Canadian Baking show, even America has the Great American Baking show! Worse still, the Americans had Paul and Mary (our two partners in crime on the BBC version) as judges for season 1 and 2.
So, looks like a whole host of us are baking crazy! The great thing about this show, is it shows you a whole host of culinary delights from across the world. There is normally a wide selection of participants, with varied heritages that normally use a ‘grandmothers’ recipe. With some technical challenges, the hosts might take a little trip to the town/ city where the idea came from to give you a bit of background. This year the visited a town in Netherlands where the Stroopwafel was created (you might’ve seen my excitement about this charming bake earlier in the post). Never have I wanted to visit Netherlands so much! Luckily British supermarkets do sell Stroopwafels, but I feel a trip to Netherlands to see the real deal is needed.
If you haven’t seen the final episode of this year’s Bake Off… Where have you been?! I won’t take a page out of Prue’s book and announce the winner for you all, but I will say this has been a very enjoyable Bake Off. With the Bake Off over for another year, I think I might see if I can watch Le meilleur pâtissier. They made headlines earlier in the week for their insane Halloween creations… so pourquoi pas eh!