5 Disastrous Translation Errors By Famous Brands
Language is a tricky thing; just ask anyone trying to pronounce "Worcestershire" for the first time. Or the second time. Or the 24th. Mistranslations can lead to some awkward faux pas, but it really becomes an issue for massive corporations. For them, a single flubbed word can sink a whole endeavor like Leonardo DiCaprio even though there was plenty of room on the door, Rose.
The Kia Provo Was Accidentally Associated With A Paramilitary Group
The Kia Provo might have been a tribute to mid-sized Utah cities or hip slang for Italian cheese elsewhere in the world, but in Ireland, "Provo" is shorthand for the Provisional IRA. You may recall them as the folks blowing things up in the name of Irish independence from the 1970s to the late 1990s. That period of time is called "The Troubles," because the Irish are masters of understatement.
Kia screwed the pooch from both ends on this one. Along with giving the car the same name as a terrorist organization, they went with ad copy calling it a "radical super-mini coupe which aims to set the streets alight." How unfortunately, almost supernaturally ironic. The cherry on top? "KIA" is also the standard abbreviation for "killed in action." This car is essentially sponsored by future regret.
Local politicians asked Kia to reconsider their tragic vehicle, and the company was happy to comply, not wanting to be known as the automaker that celebrated a decades-long campaign of mayhem. (That's really more a Saturn sort of move.) Kia promised to change the name of the vehicle in the British Isles in favor of something less loaded. Call it a win for products not affiliated with bombing everywhere!
Buick Released A Car Synonymous With "Self Love"
As you may be aware, lacrosse is the official sport of Canada. You thought it was hockey, right? Well, it's also hockey. Canada is so greedy that it took two. So it's perplexing that the Buick LaCrosse was for a time known as the Buick Allure there. Why avoid a French word that references Canada's classic sort-of pastime? The answer is that "lacrosse" has two very different meanings in Quebec.
The first is a silly game involving a racket and balls that I have never seen being played once in my entire life (and I've lived in Canada since birth). The second is a game many Canadians play that still involves balls. Lacrosse means jacking off -- "self love," to be precise -- to certain uncouth French folks. That's a fun tidbit to drop at parties, I guess.
After a few years under the Allure moniker, Buick decided to throw caution to the wind and go full LaCrosse. As I said, it is the national sport of Canada, so not accepting the word is kind of silly. It was also a costly bit of prudishness, since changing the name back involved issuing new nameplates for all Allures out in the world already and changing all the unsold Allures to Buick Jackoffs.
Related: 6 Painful Ad Fails You Won't Believe Companies Didn't Notice
IKEA's Wolf Toy Became A Vulgar Anti-Government Icon
IKEA once sold a little wolf toy inspired by Little Red Riding Hood called Lufsig. He had a wee checkered shirt and precious little suspenders, and was everything you could ever want in a stuffed animal. But you can't very well sell a wolf named Lufsig in China, because what the hell is a "lufsig" to them? So there they gave it the Cantonese name Lo Mo Sai. That sounds suitably Chinese, maybe. Sadly, in Cantonese, "Lo Mo Sai" more or less translates as "mom's c***." You know what letters those asterisks are replacing, right? This wasn't your mom's cafe.
A much-hated politician eventually received a nickname due to the toy, and then became a literal target for the C***Wolf. As in, someone actually threw one at him. Dude was mauled by a C***Wolf. That's a new sentence right there.
The doll ended up sold out all over the place. People would line up to get new shipments. But despite the sales, IKEA eventually rebranded the little guy to something less shocking. These days his name means "good fortune," which is sweet, but is also a terrible nickname for a politician you don't like, if we're being honest here.
Related: 5 Companies Whose Ad Campaigns Just Backfired Horrifically
Fiji's Tourism Board Mistook "Toilet" For "Church"
Some Fijian locals speak the incredibly named language of iTaukei. About half a million of them, in fact. So the tourism board thought it'd be nice to be inclusive of that language when they made a video to show off how great Fiji is. And this might have been a fine idea if they'd asked for a speaker's input. Instead the video mistakenly labeled the word for "church" as meaning "toilet." Not even a nice toilet or, like, one that Jesus once sat upon. Just a daily crapper.
As you might guess, Fijians were rather offended that their tourism bureau was going around telling foreigners that their churches were toilets. The government axed the campaign and pulled the videos amidst calls for an investigation. They further passed the buck onto the overseas contractors who made the video. Does it make sense for Fiji to make a video about Fiji in another country? No time for sense, we're busy figuring out how to say toilet, or at least how to not pee in a church!
Related: 4 Companies Whose Ads Just Backfired Horrifically
An Abercrombie Knockoff Used The N-Word (And Got Abercrombie In Trouble)
There are knockoff clothing websites in the same way there are items of knockoff clothing, so obviously someone cloned Abercrombie & Fitch's website. They sold bootleg shit out of China from a site that was very similar to the real deal. What was not similar: one item described on the bootleg site as being "N-word brown" (they did not use "N-word," they said the N-word). Sheeeeee-it.
When people got wind of Abercrombie & Fitch selling N-word anything, they were rightly pissed, and a shitstorm landed on their doorstep. You can still find Twitter outrage over it from 2012, which forced the actual company to both release a statement about how it wasn't their site and pursue legal action against the knockoff.
The problem was traced back to some asinine translation software that had a track record of translating "dark brown" from Chinese into the worst possible English. Despite Abercrombie & Fitch desperately hoping anyone would believe what is essentially "the evil twin" excuse, it looks like the scandal gave their brand a thorough ass-kicking, at least for a little while. Perhaps it's karmic payback for stinking up every mall in North America.
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