Oh, but it was even worse for Ford when they decided to sell their popular 'Pinto' model in Brazil. Nobody told the hapless suits that Pinto is Brazilian slang for a very small penis.
Gulf Oil launched its No-Nox brand of petrol in Indonesia, not realising that in one of the country's languages it sounds just like the slang for female genitalia.
When Coca-Cola was launched in China, its name was rendered phonetically as 'ke-kouke-la'. They made the billboards, booked the ad space... and found that depending on which language you're speaking, the Chinese characters mean 'female horse stuffed with wax' or 'bite the wax tadpole'. The chastened suits changed it to 'Ko-kou-ko-le', which means, approximately, 'happiness in the mouth'.
But Pepsi's experience in Taiwan in the Sixties was legendary. Pepsi's slogan at the time, 'Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation' got translated into Mandarin as 'Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead'.
Even further back in the mists of time, the Parker Pen company was flogging pens in Mexico, using a translation of its slogan, 'It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you'. Somewhere along the line, a hapless suit read his dictionary wrong, so that in Spanish the slogan came out as, 'It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant'. Well, no.
Also in South America, the now defunct American airline Braniff was keen to promote the seating in business class with 'Fly in leather with three more inches'. That's leather seating and extra leg room. In Spanish it came out as 'Fly naked with three more inches'. Way-hey!
Spanish again: the American Coors Beer – the stupid, meaningless English slogan, 'Turn it Loose!'; the Spanish translation, 'Suffer from diarrhoea!'
Mistt in German is slang for excrement. Clairol's 'Mist Stick' hair-curlers didn't sell too well in Germany. Nor did Irish Mist.
Of course, English, with all its nuances and double meanings can cause as many problems. The Scandinavian manufacturer of vacuum cleaners got its fingers burned when it went into the American market with 'Nothing sucks like an Electrolux'.
And there are plenty of foreign brands you'll not see here...
|Crapsy Fruit||(France)||breakfast cereal|
|Pee Cola||(Ghana)||soft drink|
|Cock Drops||(Cyprus)||cocktail bitters|
|Arcelik||(Turkey)||domestic appliance company|