Translation airier

There are enough examples of this phenomenon, I think, to declare a metalaw about it:

Given that there are a couple of thousand somewhat-widely-spoken languages, and (say) 500 somewhat embarrassing words or short phrases in each one of them, there’s a pretty good chance that any randomly-chosen brand name will turn out to be uncomfortably close in sound to something that means “snot” or “trashcan” or whatever in at least one of them.

One example given, from a reader:

I used to live in Moscow, where everyone has long been amused that Ikea chose to name a line of wine glasses “svalka”. свалка can either mean a garbage dump or a dumpster.

Although “svalka” means “coolness” in Swedish.

From my own archives, 2003:

The Buick LaCrosse sedan/sport/utility/whatever vehicle, replacement for the aged Regal, will be sold in Canada, but not with that name.

To us, “lacrosse” is a sport played on a field with sticks. To the Québécois, apparently, it’s a solo act, practiced often in the bathroom, rumored to cause hair growth on one’s palms and/or blindness.

So it was the “Allure” through 2010 or so, when Buick decided the hell with it, this is the LaCrosse, and we’re going to sell it that way. And come to think of it, the Regal didn’t stay dead, either.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

5 comments

  1. backwoods conservative »

    28 October 2014 · 2:23 pm

    The one example I’ve long been aware of was GM’s futile attempt to sell Chevy Novas in Brazil. The Portuguese speaking people of Brazil saw Nova as two Portuguese words, no and va, meaning no go. GM changed the name and were able to sell them.

  2. CGHill »

    28 October 2014 · 2:35 pm

    Certainly Spanish-speaking countries didn’t have any trouble with “Nova.”

  3. backwoods conservative »

    28 October 2014 · 2:53 pm

    So it’s a myth. I wouldn’t have known. There are only two languages I’m fluent in, English and Profane.

  4. CGHill »

    28 October 2014 · 3:20 pm

    The one that always mystified me was the AMC Matador, which word means “killer” — and not just of bulls, if I remember correctly.

  5. fillyjonk »

    28 October 2014 · 8:37 pm

    Hm. Yet another French word I never learned in Dr. Pryce’s class….

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