Part I – advertisements – warning, parental advisory
Yes, we all make mistakes. And we’ll probably make one write now. See what we mean. Easy, isn’t it. Especially when we’re trying to translate into a foreign language. I have a friend who, when in a Spanish butchers, being a squeamish Brit, asked them, or so he thought, to cut the head of the rabbit he wanted to buy. The butcher looked askance, and he then realised he’d asked the butcher to cut his own head off!
This doesn’t matter if no-one knows about it (although they do now), but when you are a major company it’s not just embarrassing it can also hit sales, which is even more embarrassing. So, at the risk of embarrassing all these firms again (unlikely as this is all freely available on the internet), here are some of our all-time favourite cock-ups from the world of translation, from those who ought to have the wherewithal to get it right first time. And if this doesn’t demonstrate the importance of proper, professional translation, then nothing will!
Bacardi, best known for their white rum, really should not have come up with the name ‘Pavian; for a new fruity drink. They thought is was a really chic name, but didn’t realise that in German, ‘Pavian’ means ‘baboon’. Tasty.
Well-known hair products firm, Clairol, produced a new curling iron and called it ‘Mist Stick’. Again, Germany was their undoing, because the word ‘mist’ in German is slang for manure. Not what you want on your hair…
Then again, if you want to draw attention to a new toothpaste, as Colgate did in France, probably best not to call it after a leading pornography magazine (called Cue, should you wish to investigate).
Purdue chickens (no, we’ve not heard of them either), had a slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”), which appeared beside a picture of Frank Purdue, who owned the company. In Mexico, this duly appeared translated into Spanish, which read, “It takes a hard man to make a chicken affectionate.”
Don’t make an arse of things is always good advice. So when Sharwoods launched a product range of new “Bundh” sauces, backed by a multi-million pound advertising campaign, they should have first found out that in Punjabi, the nearest colloquial meaning to “bundh” is indeed “arse”.
The next time, trust Global Connects to get it right for you!
More to follow!