Top 10 Cringe-worthy Translation Mistakes of All Time

Globalizing a brand is not an easy task. Your brand name, logo, or slogan may have a startlingly different meaning in other languages and cultures. And, you might be surprised to learn that even big, well-known companies can have huge blunders with poor translation.

Are you ready to feel some secondhand embarrassment? Because you’re about to read our unofficial list of the 10 most cringe-worthy translation mistakes of all time.

10 Shocking Translation Mistakes from Global Brands:

1: 👯 A Dirty Magazine from…Colgate Toothpaste?

Colgate launched a new toothpaste in France named Cue praising its cavity-reducing properties and the convenient size of the tube. However, they didn’t know that Cue was already well-known to French consumers as a popular erotic magazine.


2: ✈️ Nudity at 3,000 feet with Braniff Airlines

Braniff Airlines launched a campaign to promote their new leather seats with the slogan Fly in Leather. The Spanish translation they came up with was Vuela en Cuero. This was okay in some South American countries, but Mexicans read it as Fly Naked. For sanitary reasons, let’s hope that’s not what they meant.


3: 🐥 Snuggling with Perdue’s Chicken Tenders

Perdue’s slogan It Takes A Tough Man To Make A Tender Chicken got badly mangled when translated into Spanish. On billboards all over Mexico, Perdue proclaimed It takes a hard man to make a chicken affectionate.


4: 🤰🖋️ The Immaculate Pen-ception at Parker Pens

When entering the Mexican market, Parker Pens mistranslated It Won’t Leak in Your Pocket and Embarrass You into It Won’t Leak in Your Pocket and Make you Pregnant. Let’s hope not.


5: 🚽 A Bathroom Emergency at Coors Beverage Company

Coors found out that its beer lost some fizz in Spain. Their easygoing slogan, Turn It Loose, roughly translated to a Spanish colloquialism for having diarrhea. That’s definitely not the kind of “loose” Coors marketers were going for.


6: 😤 Using Vicks Vapor Rub the Wrong Way at P&G

Procter & Gamble didn’t give too much thought to its brand name when it introduced Vicks into the German market. However, the company was embarrassed to discover that Germans pronounce “v” as “f”– turning Vicks into a German slang word for sexual intercourse.


7: 🍼 A Leaky Situation with the American Dairy Association

The American Dairy Association conducted a successful Got Milk? campaign in the US and decided it would work just as well in Spanish-speaking countries. However, Got Milk? was mistranslated into Are You Lactating? Moms in Spanish-speaking countries probably didn’t need a reminder.


8: 💩 Clairol’s Stinky Curling Iron

Clairol introduced a curling iron with the brand name Mist Stick. This vapor wand beauty product sold like hotcakes in most countries. However, in Germany, it turned out that mist is German slang for manure. While many farmers may have found a use for a Manure Stick, fair-haired frauleins did not.


9: 🤧 Unfortunate Innuendo at Proctor and Gamble

Puffs is a cutesy name for facial tissues made by Procter & Gamble. Unfortunately, P&G failed to realize that Germany and the UK would not view Puffs in the same light. In Germany, puff is slang for a brothel. In the UK, it’s an offensive slur.


10:🐎 Accidentally Anatomical Autos at Ford Motor Company

Ford blundered bigtime when introducing the Pinto into Brazil. In Brazilian Portuguese, Pinto can refer to male anatomy. Ford had to change the name of the Pinto to Corcel, which is Brazilian Portuguese for a horse.


Avoiding Big Translation Mistakes

What’s in a name? Or, for that matter, a brand? Well, a lot of headaches (and lost money) if you get it wrong.

Poor understanding of cross-cultural differences when trying to market your brand in a different language and culture can mean an unsuccessful campaign – even worse, an offensive one. Marketing blunders not only mean a loss of profits, but they can also damage your company’s reputation.

For information on how Localize can help you manage your translations and avoid making costly mistakes when globalizing your brand, reach out anytime!

Share this post:

Related Reading