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Bad Slogan Translations


Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea".

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".

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.

In Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off".

The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem-Feeling Free", was translated into the Japanese market as "When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read English.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

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).

In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water".

Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave", in Chinese.

We all know about GM's Chevy Nova meaning "it won't go" in Spanish markets, but did you know that Ford had a similar problem in Brazil with the Pinto? Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford renamed the automobile Corcel, meaning "horse".

Hunt-Wesson introduced Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos. Later they found out that in slang it means "big breasts".

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".

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".

Three years ago, during a trip to Indiana, my folks decided to show off their new "real" Mexican restaurant, named Chi-chi's. Upon seeing the name on the marquee, my partner started to laugh. My folks asked him why he was laughing, and he explained that in Mexican Spanish, "chi-chi's" literally means "titties." (My folks - who are Baptists - were not amused; but they didn't go back to that restaurant, either!)

Probably the most famous of all is John Kennedy's announcement to the people of Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner!" JFK thought he said, "I am a citizen of Berlin!" What he *really* said was, "I am a jelly doughnut!" ("Berliner" is German for "jelly doughnut".)

Some friends from England visited us a few years back. Their teenage daughter got a huge laugh from the name of an airline back then: The Trump Shuttle (Donald Trump's airline). They said in England, "Trump" translated into "fart"!

No wonder macs are the best selling computer in Japan, Microsofts Windows '95 ad slogan, translated into Japanese: "If you don't know where you want to go, we'll make sure you get taken."

When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, "Fly in leather," it came out in Spanish as "Fly naked."

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."

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 gutteral equivalent of "sexual penetration."

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.

The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries. "No va" means "it doesn't go" in Spanish.

U.S. cosmetics firm Clinique pulls a print ad for its Elixir perfume after Thailand's government (the foreign ministry) sent a letter of protest to the company complaining the ad was "an insult" to Buddhists. The perfume ad, which ran in Vogue and other U.S. fashion magazines, depicts a snake crawling over the head of an image of the lord Buddha (note: in Thailand, the head is the most revered part of the body). Clinique has reportedly pulled the ad and sent a letter of apology to the Thai ambassador in Washington, in which it expressed "shock to hear about the possible negative perceptions that would be put on this picture." Interestingly, the ad campaign ran only in the USA and caused global problems.

How about a Scandavadian Company calling their toilet paper CRAPP (In the British Environment - well?)

UK based machine company introducing a new model of what is referred to in the US as a drill press gave it the UK designation "screwing machine".

Here's one from Finland, Canon (I'm not sure about the brand) has a camera called EOS. Finns that are in marketing research use 'EOS' as an acronym for 'I cannot say' or 'I don't know', in Finnish 'en osaa sanoa'.

'Irish Mist' Irish whiskey marketed in Germany, where Mist is an alternative word for manure.

Toyota MR2 marketed in France where it is pronounced "emm err deux", which is a near homonym for "emmerde", which means dung (manure). It is now marketed as simply MR.

Brand confusion: Durex is the best selling brand of condoms in the UK and a popular brand of adhesive tape in Australia. Watch out for confused Aussies in England and vice versa.