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- Electrolux, a Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer, used this ad in the U.S.: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Colgate introduced a toothpaste called “Cue” in France, but it turned out to be the same name as a well-known porno magazine.
- When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly naked.”
- Bacardi concocted a fruity drink with the name “Pavian” to suggest French chic…but “pavian” means “baboon” in German.
- A hair products company, Clairol, introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that mist is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the manure stick.
- Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.”
- Chicken magnate Frank Perdue’s line, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” sounds much more interesting in Spanish: “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate.”
- The American Dairy Association was so successful with its “Got Milk?” campaign, that it was decided to extend the ads to Mexico. Unfortunately, the Spanish translation was “Are you lactating?”
- When Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market, to their horror they discovered that their slogan “finger lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off”
- When Vicks first introduce its cough drops on the German market, they were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of “v” is f – which in German is the guttural equivalent of “sexualpenetration.”
- Parker Pens translated the slogan for its ink, “Avoid Embarrassment – Use Quink” into Spanish as “Evite Embarazos – Use Quink”…which also means, “Avoid Pregnancy – Use Quink.”
- When Pepsi started marketing its products in China a few years back, they translated their slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” pretty literally. The slogan in Chinese really meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”
- In Italy, a campaign for “Schweppes Tonic Water” translated the name into the much less thirst quenching “Schweppes Toilet Water.”
- Chinese translation proved difficult for Coke, which took two tries to get it right. They first tried Ke-kou-ke-la because when pronounced it sounded roughly like Coca-Cola. It wasn’t until after thousands of signs had been printed that they discovered that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax,” depending on the dialect. Second time around things worked out much better. After researching 40,000 Chinese characters, Coke came up with “ko-kou-ko-le” which translates roughly to the much more appropriate “happiness in the mouth.”
- Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its product, only to learn that “Puff” in German is a colloquial term for a whorehouse. The English weren’t too fond of the name either, as it’s a highly derogatory term for a non-heterosexual.
© Werner Stangl Linz 2020