Without giving too much about this walkie talkie prank article, but I found it interesting and significant to what I’m currently doing.
Humor in translation – Mistranslations
v When Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market, to their horror they discovered that their slogan “finger lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off”
v Chinese translation also proved difficult for Coke, which took two tries to get it right.
They first tried Ke-kou-ke-la because when pronounced it sounded roughly like Coca-Cola. It wasn’t until after thousands of signs had been printed that they discovered that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect.
Second time around things worked out much better. After researching 40,000 Chinese characters, Coke came up with “ko-kou-ko-le” which translates roughly to the much more appropriate “happiness in the mouth”.
v Things weren’t much easier for Coke’s arch-rival Pepsi. When they entered the Chinese market a few years ago, the translation of their slogan “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life” was a little more literal than they intended. In Chinese, the slogan meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.
v But it’s not just in Asian markets that soft drinks makers have problems. In Italy, a campaign for “Schweppes Tonic Water” translated the name into the much less thirst quenching “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
v The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem – Feeling Free,” got translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”
v General Motors had a perplexing problem when they introduced the Chevy Nova in South America. Despite their best efforts, they weren’t selling many cars. They finally realized that in Spanish, “nova” means “it won’t go”. Sales improved dramatically after the car was renamed the “Caribe.”
v Things weren’t any better for Ford when they introduced the Pinto in Brazil. After watching sales go nowhere, the company learned that “Pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Ford pried the nameplates off all of the cars and substituted them with “Corcel,” which means horse.
v Sometimes it’s one word of a slogan that changes the whole meaning. When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass.
Instead the ads said “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
v Foreign companies have similar problems when they enter English speaking markets. Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it expanded to English-speaking countries and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of the Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.
The company didn’t change the name of all its divisions though. Visitors to Japan still have the opportunity to take a ride on the Kinki Nippon Railway.
v When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in Leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly Naked.”
v Coors put its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
v 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?”