August 22, 1997
My mother called me the other day. I’m an adult, I’ve not lived with my parents for many years, and still I get flashbacks from the days when my mother took me shopping for clothes. When I was young and didn’t care so much, she made me clothes. Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a pair of short overalls made from polyester with a pattern of red, white, and blue stars. I only wore it once to a large family gathering, and, in retrospect, it was probably intended to draw attention away from my father’s sideburns. As I got older, my mother stopped making clothes, but her fascination with polyester continued. For her, there were only two kinds of clothing: polyester for the summer, and wool for the winter. It’s a wonder I didn’t grow up with some kind of skin condition. Shopping was the worst, though. It’s a fact of childhood that your friends’ parents will always handle difficult things like shopping in a sane, reasonable, and relatively quiet manner while your parents try to humiliate you as loudly and publicly as possible. All your parents probably did this. What you don’t know is that they took twice-weekly classes from my mother in how to most effectively do it. My mother trained parents of children six through sixteen in how to build character through the use of awful clothing. My mother was a grand-master. She added a whole new dimension to the game. She would pull out a shirt that would embarass Liberace and say, "Why don’t you like this?" There’s a popular belief that men are genetically unable to dress themselves. The fact is, any fashion sense is trained out of them by mothers holding up orange, yellow, and violet plaid and saying, "This would look good on you." My face would turn a slightly more appealing shade of green and I’d ask her to put the shirt back. "Why? You like plaid!" No matter what it was, I liked it. Finally, she would buy the shirt, saying, "Well, you might learn to like it." Three months later she would say, "Why don’t you ever wear that shirt that you liked so much in the store?"
Enjoy this week’s offering.
Cracking an international market is a goal of most growing corporations. It shouldn’t be that hard, yet even the big multi-nationals run into trouble because of language and cultural differences. For example…
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."
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."
Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin’ good" came out as "eat your fingers off."
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem – Feeling Free," got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
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’s 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."
Chicken-man Frank Perdue’s slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused."
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
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.
THE FACTS OF LIFE
The 2 most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
Money can’t buy happiness…But it sure makes misery easier to live with..
Deja Moo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.
Psychiatrists say that 1 of 4 people are mentally ill. Check 3 friends. If they’re OK, you’re it.
Nothing in the known universe travels faster than a bad check.
A truly wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn.
It has recently been discovered that research causes cancer in rats.
Always remember to pillage BEFORE you burn.
If you are given an open-book exam, you will forget your book.
The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.
It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
Paul’s Law: You can’t fall off the floor.
The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think.
Paranoids are people, too; they have their own problems. It’s easy to criticize, but if everybody hated you, you’d be paranoid, too.
A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell and make you feel happy to be on your way.
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Vital papers will demonstrate their vitality by moving from where you left them to where you can’t find them.
Law of Probability Dispersal: Whatever it is that hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.