The fascination to ‘master’ English is almost universal (except in France, of course). Apparently, there is a scramble in China to master this new language before the Olympics.
Talking of Chinese and English, the book Lost in Translation lists these bloopers:
From an Air China brochure: ‘Dear passenger, wish you a joyful journey! When you are in public laughing and talking and drinking and singing and living a happy life, suddenly you feel some part of your body is too itchy to endure. How embarrassed! Please dial fax 01-491-02538, you will gain an unexpected result!’
At a hotel in France was this sign: ‘Please leave your values at the front desk’. Gladly? In advertising there is oft-quoted story about General Motors launching a brand of car called Nova in South America. Small problem – ‘Nova’ means ‘won’t go’ in Spain. Some say this never happened and is only an urban legend. These are true though:
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.”
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.”
Back home, Pepsi’s ‘Yeh dil maange more’ was ‘Ullam ketkume more’ in Tamil. ‘More’ in Tamil is buttermilk. Hmm. And there was this brand of vanaspati called ‘Oomda’ (the Urdu word meaning excellent’). In Tamil Nadu you would expect them to read it phonetically. No houewife would dare ask the shopkeeper for this brand by name. Check with your Tamil-speaking friends why.
I am off for a ‘Gillege shave’.
Couple of other anecdotes – KFC’s “Finger licking good” was translated into chinese (or korean) as bite your fingers off.
Irish Mist, a popular soft drink (there is also a brand of alcohol by that name) did a promo in Germany. They did not have many takers for it and they began to wonder why… Mist in Germany is Horse shit.
Thanks, Gitanjali. In these days of ‘global’ everything one needs to be very careful with language.