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Humour: Cultural Clangers. How Not to do Business Abroad…

July 14th, 2014

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Pepsi’s slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” in Chinese.

Bacardi created what they described as “upscale bitters drink” and called it “Pavane” (French slang for “chick”) to give it a frisson of Gallic chic. It bombed in German-speaking territories because the word means ‘baboon’ in German.

The Coca-Cola name in China was first translated as “Ke-kou-ke-la”, meaning “female horse stuffed with wax”.

An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted a papal visit. But instead of “I saw the Pope” (el papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa).

When Ford launched their Pinto model in Brazil, sales were poor. This might have had something to do with the fact that “Pinto” is Brazilian slang meaning “tiny male genitals“.  Ford changed the name to “Corcel” which means “horse” and things got much better.

Parker Pens marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico using the slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”.  But the company should have checked their translation more carefully. They thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. It doesn’t. So their adverts actually meant  “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.

 

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