You have to feel for international brands. There they are, just hoping to bring a little joy to the world and profit to themselves with some hot new products, and it suddenly turns out that their ignorance of international swears means that they’ve made some hilarious mistakes.
Some brands nail it, of course. Entire nations call tissues Kleenex, vacuum cleaners Hoovers, photocopiers Xerox machines and… um, call Band-Aids Band-Aids. What even would you call those things?
Onesies. Jetskis. Jacuzzis. Dumpsters. Even Breathalysers are an actual brand name, despite being used as a generic product description.
And then there are the fails.
One of the most famous is more amusing than actually a failure per se, which is that in written Chinese the signs which (phonetically) make up “Coca-Cola” translate as several baffling phrases, of which “bite the wax tadpole” is the greatest.
It’s slightly better than the fate of KFC, whose slogan “it’s finger-lickin’ good!” translated into Chinese as “eat your fingers off!” And Coke’s rival Pepsi had a similar situation where their “Brings you back to life” slogan was rendered as “Brings You Back from the Grave.”
But they’re not not the only hilarious mistakes that products have made.
The Pinto was a doomed car made by Ford, which suffered a notable recall in the US. But that was after they’d tried marketing it in Brazil without realising that in the local Portuguese dialect the term meant “tiny dick”.
It’s not limited to English speaking companies either: Iranian company Paxam decided to export their laundry soap whose brand name used the Farsi word for snow. Oddly enough, there was little western enthusiasm for using “Barf Soap.”
So, if you’re a linguist with a particularly firm grasp of local insults, start marketing yourself as a brand consultant for products. You’ll make a goddamn mint.