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April 05, 2005
Translation bloopers

We are currently translating into Spanish. While researching the topic, I can across some translation bloopers that made me laugh:

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."

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

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.

Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.

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 that "It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."

An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."

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

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

Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.

Posted by Gus on April 5, 2005 02:42 PM


I work for a translation company named Gorenstein Group. A group of our consultants recently came back from a trip to Japan where we found that many Japanese kids proudly wear shirts that say things like "Sperm Receptacle" and "Lovely Reasonable Monkey Lover".

Posted by: Felipe Massa at August 24, 2005 02:35 PM

One very popular local blooper in the Yellow Pages a few years ago. An insurance company had the slogan "It's no fault of ours if you pay more". They had two full page ads facing each other. The English slogan came out fine. But due to one letter being wrong, the Spanish was something like "it's not our fault if you masturbate too much" Since the books are published yearly, it was a long time before this one went away.

Posted by: Ray Vaughan at July 26, 2005 05:21 PM
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