Lost in translation
1. The Dairy Association’s huge success with the campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?”
2. Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea”
3. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.
PS – a German manufacturer makes a vacuum cleaner on the European market called “Vampyr.”
4. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the manure stick.
5. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since many people can’t read.
6. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
7. An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa).
8. Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”, in Chinese.
9. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Ke-kou-ke-la”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “ko-kou-ko-le”, translating into “happiness in the mouth” (or alternately, “Let the mouth rejoice” – L).
10. Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.
11. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Instead, the company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
This page was last updated September 1, 1998.