Sega, Hulu, Waterpik and even Coca-Cola mean very different things in other languages.
The two lists I published previously this week (Legend of Zelda a-holes and Jay-Z’s 99 Problems) were both very well received, but both a bit esoteric. So I wanted to do something a little more universal for today.
Of course, “universal” on this site generally means a broad subject loaded up with obscure jokes about streaming TV services and World Wars and Irish airlines, but, ya know, that’s why people keep coming back. It’s not the hypnotic effect of the pink stripes.
So here are 11 brand names with unfortunate foreign translations. This is the side effect of naming your brand without going on a world tour and asking hundreds of different people if your brand is a slang term in their language. Typical lazy Big Business.
1 | Audi E-Tron
Translation: étron means “excrement” in French
It’s like the Germans weren’t even paying attention all those times they invaded France or something.
2 | Hulu
Translation: “butt” in Indonesian, “hair” in Hawaiian, and “cease” and “desist” in Swahili
“Butt” is the translation that turns on the Gawkers and Huffington Posts of the world… “cease/desist” has the most sly TV streaming-related nuance… but my favorite is the Hawaiian “hair” one. It’s just so… random. Fact: There’s an actual island off Maui called Hulu Island. Where, I assume, people have absolutely incredible hair and watch Detroit 187 and Modern Family all day and all night.
(Hulu Plus Island is similar — they see all the same ads as the people on Hulu Island but have eight extra episodes of Designing Women to choose from.)
3 | SyFy
Translation: “syphilitics” in Polish
Let’s call this reason number 23341 that it was foolish to change the network’s name from SciFi to SyFy. (We get it. You hate the fact that you’re a science fiction-oriented network, but too afraid to completely distance yourself from it lest your handful of loyal viewers flee. At least you could’ve piqued the curiosity of the masses if you’d gone with a more overt STD reference than SyFy. Like The Gonorrhea Channel? Chlamydia Media? Or, to keep your nerdy roots, Hepatitis Andronicus?)
Well, anytime I bring up the Polish, I like to interject a POLISH JOKE BREAK. Keep your eyes peeled for it later in the list. I think you’ll probably catch it.
4 | Gerber
Translation: “vomit” in French
The consistency, color and taste of baby food… plus the expression on the Gerber baby’s mouth… really could make someone think they were buying a tiny lil’ jar o’ vomit.
5 | Sega
Translation: “masturbate” in Italian
So, by that logic, Sega Dreamcast is Italian for a nocturnal emission… Sega Saturn is Italian for masturbating with a cockring… and if you say Sega CD really fast it means wisdom and sound judgment.
Shame on YOU for thinking I was setting up a “Sega SeeDeez Nuts” joke.
6 | Mensa
Translation: “stupid (female)” in Spanish
Looks like none of the geniuses in charge bothered to check their name in Spanish. I guess they were too busy updating the “clubs/organizations” sections of their resumes and getting ready to interview for the job opening at Barnes and Noble.
7 | Coca-Cola
Translation: original Chinese version “ke-ke-ken-la” means “bite the wax tadpole”
Eventually they weeded through enough Chinese characters to string together an audibly-accurate/on point translation of “ko-kou-ko-le.” That roughly means “happiness in the mouth.”
Which, ya know, would make this list if I was translating from Chinese into pervert.
8 | Waterpik
Translation: water is “vand” in Danish, “pik” is penis; “vandpik” is slang for “morning erection”
It could just be “water penis.” Which is what Polish teenagers do to make their penises grow.
9 | Wii
Translation: slang for “penis” in English
The video game console that spawned an infinite number of “Johnny’s at home playing with his Wii” jokes. Fortunately, the Internet has seemed to burn those out, much as it’s burned out iPad menstruation jokes and even, arguably, Aer Lingus jokes. It will, however, never be strong enough to burn out shuttlecock jokes. As long as badminton and school children exist, they will live on.
10 | Wang Computers
Translation: slang for “penis” in English
The real folks at Wang Computers don’t have Bart’s vision of a bus-destroying gremlin to distract people away from their name.
11 | Colgate
Translation: “hang yourself” in some Central and South American Spanish dialects
For it to work, you have to pronounce it cahl-gah-tay. Basically how Gloria on Modern Family would pronounce Colgate.
Which you’d know if you lived on Hulu Island.