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Vocabulary Books

Mistakes in advertising

Here are some silly English mistakes from people who really should know better:-
American Airlines | Bacardi | Boots | Braniff | Clairol | Coca Cola | Colgate | Coors
Dairy Association | Electrolux | Ford | Fritos | General Motors1 | General Motors2
Gerber | Ikea | Kentucky Fried Chicken | Marks and Spencer | Nytol | Otis Engineering
Parker1 | Parker2 | Pepsi | Perdue | Puff | Rowenta
Sainsbury | Schweppes | Sears | Sharwoods | Sunmaid | Swann | Sweetcorn | Tesco
Vicks
| Miscellaneous
American Airlines On an American Airlines packet of nuts - INSTRUCTIONS - OPEN PACKET, EAT NUTS.

Bacardi Bacardi concocted a fruity drink with the name 'Pavian' to suggest French chic ... but 'Pavian' means 'baboon' in German.


Boots

On the label of Boot's "Children's" cough medicine - DO NOT DRIVE A CAR OR OPERATE MACHINERY.


Braniff

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


Clairol

A hair products company, 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.


Coca Cola

When Coca Cola was first introduced into China they named it Ke-Kou-Ke-La. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect.

Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent: Ko-Kou-Ko-Le, which can be roughly translated as "happiness in the mouth." (have you seen what it can do to teeth?).


In some countries, on the bottom of Coke bottles it says "OPEN OTHER END."



Colgate

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


Coors

Coors the American brewer lost its fizz in Spain when their hip phrase "Turn It Loose" came out as "Get Diarrhea".


Dairy Association

The American Dairy Association's huge success with its campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read "Are you lactating?"


Electrolux

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux. But in America if something 'sucks' it means it is really bad.


Ford

Ford seemed to have a problem in Brazil where sales of the Pinto flopped. On investigation the company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals." Ford pried the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means "horse."


Fritos On a packet of Fritos crisps - YOU COULD BE A WINNER! NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. DETAILS INSIDE.
General Motors "Body by Fisher", boasted the auto giant General Motors. "Corpse by Fisher" was how the Belgians read it.
General Motors

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.


Gerber

When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA -- with a cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is inside since many people cannot read!


Ikea

Ikea is a Swedish company and so some of their products sound strange in English, but kind of cool. However, calling a children's work bench 'FartFull' wasn't a good idea. In Swedish, "fartfull" simply means "speedy. In English it has a totally different connotation (full of farts).


Kentucky Fried Chicken

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


 

Marks and Spencer Label on a Marks & Spencer's Bread Pudding - PRODUCT WILL BE HOT AFTER HEATING.

Nytol On the label of their sleeping aid - WARNING MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS.
Otis Engineering When Otis Engineering took part in an exhibition in Moscow, a translator somehow managed to render a "completion equipment" sign into "equipment for orgasms".
Parker Pens

Parker Pens translated the slogan for its ink, "Avoid Embarassment - Use Quink" into Spanish as "Evite Embarazos - Use Quink" ... which also means "Avoid Pregnancy - Use Quink."


Parker Pens

When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarass you." However, the company mistakenly thought the spanish word embarazar meant "embarass." Instead, the ads said that "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant!"


Pepsi

Not to be outdone by Coke when Pepsi started a marketing campaign in Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."


Puff Puffs tissues another US company tried 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 homosexual.

 

Purdue

Chicken-man Frank Purdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got badly mangled in a Spanish translation. A photo of Purdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that translated as "It takes a hard man to make a chicken affectionate."



Rowenta

On packaging for a Rowenta iron - DO NOT IRON CLOTHES ON BODY.


Sainsbury On a packet of their peanuts - WARNING - CONTAINS NUTS.
Schweppes Tonic Water

In Italy, a compaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water!


Sears On a Sears hairdryer - DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.
Sharwoods

When Sharwoods launched its latest product range in the UK earlier this month, it promised the "deliciously rich" sauces based on a traditional northern Indian method of cooking would "change the way consumers make curry". So confident was Sharwoods that its new 'Bundh' sauces would be a hit that it backed the launch with a huge £6 million ($14.2 million) television advertising campaign.

What it failed to foresee was that "bundh" in Punjabi has an altogether less savoury meaning - the nearest English translation being, to put it bluntly, "arse".


Sunmaid On a packet of Sunmaid raisins - WHY NOT TRY TOSSING OVER YOUR FAVOURITE BREAKFAST CEREAL?

Swann On a Swann frozen dinner - "Serving suggestion: Defrost."
Sweetcorn Jolly Green Giant translated into Arabic means "Intimidating Green Ogre."
Tesco On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom of the box) - DO NOT TURN UPSIDE DOWN.

Vicks 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 guttural equivalent of "sexual penetration."


Miscellaneous A famous drug company marketed a new remedy in the United Arab Emirates. To avoid any mistakes they used pictures. The first picture was of someone ill, the next picture showed the person taking the medication, the last picture showed them looking well. What they forgot is that in the Arab world people read from right to left!
  An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market that promoted a visit by Pope John Paul II. Instead of "I saw the Pope (el Papa)", the shirts read "I saw the potato (la papa)".

  In his entertaining book Native tongues (London: Panther Books, 1984), Charles Berlitz relates an incident involving Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Krushchev when he visited the USA and the UN. During an interview on US television, the interviewer using an idiom to indicate that he thought the Soviet leader's statements were not logical, said that Krushchev was 'barking up the wrong tree.'

Krushchev's interpreter had some difficulty finding an equivalent Russian expression and told Krushchev that the interviewer had said he was 'baying like a hound.'

Krushchev was not amused, and quite a bit of explanation was needed before the misunderstanding was cleared up and the Soviet leader regained his calm.


 

Ex Chancellor Helmut Kohl was famous for his mediocre English. Rumour has it that he once addressed Magaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, with the words: "You can say you to me".


 

If you know of any other howlers like these, fill in the form and send them in
(full recognition given if required)

Click here for a collection of common mistakes and their explanation.

 

Click here for a list of common American English and British English differences

 

Click here for a collection of medical howlers.

 

Click here for some help with English in Advertising.

 

Think Global, Act Local (Ohmae) - but above all THINK! (me)

 

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