Just curious if anyone knows anything about the following “blunders” (before I use them in my class):
Honda Fit sold as Jazz in most of Asia and Europe for “Fit” being an F-word
Irish Mist and Mist Stick being a problem in Germany, where “mist” is an S-word
Umbro’s Zyklon shoe model removed after discovering that Zyklon was also the name of the gas used by Nazis in gas chambers.
I also mention a few mistakes made by foreign companies in the U.S. (Ikea’s Fartfull desk, locum’s Christmas logo with “o” substituted with a heart symbol, Electrolux’s slogan “Nothing Sucks Like Electrolux”, and Volkswagen’s Bora sold as “Jetta” in the U.S. (actually a good example of avoiding a problem) - but those seem to be obvious blunders as attested by the smiles of my English-speaking students.
Any of these are also urban myths?
From: Romie Littrell [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2012 8:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AIB-L] FW: [AIB-L] Perpetuating falsehoods: The Chevrolet Nova sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because its name translates as "doesn't go" in Spanish
Tunga is correct. The Ford Pinto was never sold in Brasil, even under another model name. Marcelo de Castro Bastos informs (and confirmed elsewhere): The Ford Corcel was a totally unrelated product, the result of a joint project by the Brazilian subsidiary of Willys Overland and French automaker Renault (Willys used to make Renault cars, like the Dauphine and Gordini, under license in Brazil.) When Ford acquired Willys's Brazilian operation, they inherited the almost-finished project and decided to launch it under their own brand. They MAY have considered to use the "Pinto" brand on it, but saner heads prevailed and decided on the "Corcel" name in order to keep to the "horse" theme Ford seemed to like at the time. The "Pinto" name was never used in Brazil.
That’s most likely an urban legend as well. The claim is that Ford Pinto was renamed and sold as Ford Corcel after the blunder was noticed. The problem with that is that Corcel was actually introduced in Brazil in 1968 (and developed in Brazil by a company that was later acquired by Ford). That’s 2 years BEFORE Ford Pinto was ever marketed (it was introduced in the US in 1970).
Doing some quick Googling, there is some brief research about the Ford Pinto claim at http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=619 and it reaches the same conclusion…
Thank you, Romie and Tunga, for alerting us to the possibility that some of the “facts” used textbook discussions of the cultural aspects of international business are not quite factual.
I wonder if anyone has investigated the claim that the Ford Pinto had to be renamed in Brazil after Ford realized that in Portuguese slang pinto is a small male appendage. Is this also an urban legend?
I number of us had engaged in a similar discussion back in May 2002 on Global Interact Network (GINLIST – a now defunct discussion list). There were several translation examples that we discussed as urban legends; the Chevy Nova example, the Coca-Cola being translated into Chinese as "bite the wax tadpole", and Pepsi’s campaign in Taiwan being translated as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead" as well as others.
A few of us tried to track the citations in the textbooks to their original sources and quickly went nowhere. At the end, we found several books that simply cited each other or mentioning these cases as anecdotes without any credible references. The earliest mention of the Chevy Nova ‘blunder’ we could find was a WSJ article from January 13, 1977 written by a staff reporter discussing the business of technical translation. The conclusion of the discussion was that these are all urban legends that have been victims of ‘consensual validation’. Once a first few cites came up, lazy writers who only do cursory research use those citations as validation of the statement as a fact and publish them. Additional such publications only strengthen the false validation process.
What’s so surprising is that the Snopes article was already up online in 2002, so the case has been researched and classified as urban legend for at least a decade. Yet it continues to be mentioned frequently as a brand blunder.
Tunga Kiyak, Ph.D.
Academy of International Business (AIB)
Finally someone writes about this myth! I have been saying the same for a long time to my students in International Business and Cross-Cultural Management because all textbooks use that as an example of blunders in language, and the Nova thing became a classic which no one had questioned before. I lived in Venezuela during the introduction of the Chevy Nova and it was a very well accepted car in that market as mentioned in your e-mail. I have said to my students and to anyone else willing to listen that in Spanish speaking countries “nova” will be associated more with the word “nuevo” (which means new), because the Latin root of “Nuevo” is pretty close to “Nova.”
Thanks for sharing!
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