Fun Friday: Mistranslated Advertising #2

To see Mistranslated Advertising #1 click here

I love Fridays!  As per tradition, I bring you the Fun Friday post where I find humor stemming from quirks in the English language and the joys of translation.  Today we have yet another chance to laugh at advertising gone wrong from around the world. If you missed the first list, click on the link above.

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s famous slogan ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ mutated into something completely different when translated into Chinese.  It came out, ‘Eat Your Fingers Off.’

Chevrolet wanted a car with an out of this world name.  They got it with the Chevy Nova.  They hit a snag when trying to market the car in Mexico.  In Spanish ‘no va’ literally means ‘no go’ or ‘it doesn’t work.’  They later renamed the car the ‘Caribe.’ [Update: a rather pedantic reader pointed out that this is actually untrue. There’s even a Snopes article about it. It’s still funny.]

If that’s not bad enough, Vauxhall motors, based in the UK, also tried to market their car called, you guessed it, the ‘Nova’ in the Spanish market.  They didn’t have much success either. [I’m guessing someone might call foul here as well…]

Another British car manufacturer, Triumph, ran into problems when marketing their new car ‘Acclaim’ to the German market.  ‘Triumph Acclaim’ translates to ‘Sieg Heil’ in German – the hallmark battle cry of the Nazis.

Coors successful slogan ‘Turn it Loose’ didn’t do so well in the Spanish Market.  The Spanish-speaking drinkers were instead encouraged to ‘Get Diarrhea.’

Parker Pen made a critical error when they assumed that the Spanish word ’embarazar’ meant ‘to embarrass.’  The ads were supposed to say: ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.’  Instead they read: ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.’

Braniff International Airways tried a new marketing angle by bragging about their upholstery.  The slogan read ‘Fly in Leather’ but came out in Spanish as ‘Fly Naked.’

Microsoft ended up almost too honest when translating it’s slogan into Japanese – it read: ‘If you don’t know where you want to go, we’ll make sure you get taken.’

English speakers aren’t responsible for all mistranslations.  Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used this slogan in an American campaign: ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

For all humorous posts, click here

Material for today’s post found at:


About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, will be published November 2018 by Immortal Works Press. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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16 Responses to Fun Friday: Mistranslated Advertising #2

  1. theonlycin says:

    Thanks for the smile.
    Electrolux may have made a blooper, but it sure stuck in people’s minds 🙂

  2. This one from a town local to me amused me recently. It even made it onto the BBC news website…check it out!

    I hope you enjoy!…

  3. These are always fun. You managed to find several I’d never seen before. Good work!

  4. In my country, we’ve made road signs, store, advertisements, text messages, etc., in English–the language with which we study through university, conduct business and governance, read and write except in ‘Taglish’ tabloids (mixture of Tagalog dialect from which our national language Pilipino is derived)–a national pastime, laughing at ourselves.

    It’s been a hundred years since the Americans took over the Spaniards (in a mock battle two years after we fought and won a revolution against 300 years of Spanish rule). Our tongue has since been layered over or peppered with languages from centureis of migrations rooted in Malay, Austro Polynesian, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and English. I have realized as a writer in my furious attempts to break into the world of English letters that my use of English just isn’t right. No matter how I craft words with diligence, mode or tone or how I string them together somehow slips into cracks I’m not aware of.

    I’d like to quote here from a piece I posted in my other blog about the msyterious process of using language alien to one’s culture:

    “I took a break from the haiku that I usually post in and wrote this reply to someone who got to the site searching for the word ‘willow tree’ in Pilipino.

    I don’t think we have one like we don’t have a Pilipino word for snow–we call it yelo (hielo), which means ice in Spanish. Kaskas yelo is how Filipinos look at fresh-driven snow the first time as they scoop it to taste, recalling or wishing for a glass of halo-halo (akin to ‘rainbow ice’ in menus of Vietnamese restaurants in New York’) in hand.

    Citing the absence of Pilipino (or Iluko) words for willow tree and snow demonstrates how language is deeply entrenched in culture: the totality of one’s being layered over by influences of earth, air, water, living things, words whispered, sang, murmured, chanted, stated, shouted, screamed, written for one to read under fluorescent light, Coleman light-flood, moonlight, candle light–how we whine and laugh and cuddle up wordless or word-full, with what flowers we offer our sighs, what trees we carve arrow-pierced hearts, from what looming shadows we scamper away, what wings we shoot down, from what edges of cliffs we plunge off to get to our dreams.

    Borrowed language, borrowed tongues often entangle the mind. Take how words to describe autumn turn into phantom leaves in tropical groves narra trees crown and how the red and gold in song that trail sorrow are mimed on plastered walls in made-up nooks while out on a window in constant blaze, a row of arboles de fuego (fire trees).

    In languages like mine born of life, a borrowed word–just one, say cry or sob–fails to bring out how anug-og in Iluko (the dialect I was born with of the 87, one of which is Tagalog out of which Pilipino is derived) pictures a bent figure broken in grief, shaking with spasms of pain, sobbing an animal cry that escapes from the depth of caves…

    …No, dear friend who’s asking if there is a translation of willow tree in Pilipino, there’s none I’m aware of because unlike guijo, narra, bayabas (bayawas), algarrubo (acacia), mangga or lomboy (duhat) that spread luxuriantly under perpetual summer skies, a willow tree grows under other skies, skies that turn crystal blue in freezing winter against which weeping willow branches turn into a bundle of women whose dried thin hair hang like those of witches under the moon. None of our trees have looked as sinister—under Philippine skies that stars perforate, crowns of mangoes and some other trees sparkle. No, nothing that does not belong can be a match, can be translated.”

  5. I laughed so hard while reading this. XD Hilarious.

  6. nrhatch says:

    Friday sure is FUN around here!

    Off to post a link of FB. : )

  7. agatha82 says:

    Brilliant stuff! I speak a bit of Spanish so I was laughing my head off about the Chevy Nova 🙂

  8. Great to start the weekend with an uproarious laugh. Thanks.

  9. This made me giggle, and when I shared it with my brother, he laughed too. 🙂

    Thanks for the Friday funnies!

  10. Pingback: Weekly Review #17 « My Literary Quest

  11. tsuchigari says:

    I had a blast looking for advertisements mistakes that I hadn’t seen before. I’m glad you all liked them – thanks for stopping by!

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