Oftentimes it is assumed that a word in one language is meaningless in another.
For example: in the United States there are often untranslated product names that, while consumers may not understand the meaning of the name, customers do acknowledge it as a legitimately ethnic product.
Sometimes, however, this is not the case. Sometimes when a product name is left untranslated it is a false cognate.
Sometimes this is harmless, sometimes it can be image ruining.
There are countless examples of the false cognate “mist,” which is a word in both English and German.
Mist, in English, means a wispy cloud of liquid.
Mist, in German, means manure or dung.
Some companies that made this oversight:
Irish Mist Whiskey.
Clairol Mist Stick
The company that noticed:
Rolls Royce planned to call the successor to their “Silver Cloud,” the “Silver Mist,” but renamed it the “Silver Shadow,” prior to production, after realizing the car’s unintended German meaning.
Note: The following is based on a true advertising campaign meant for the mexican market. The actual “commercial” is made up, however only to emphasize how funny this would sound if you were a native Spanish (Mexico) speaker.
Do you enjoy the finer things in the world?
First class life, first class pets, first class family?
When you fly, you fly first class.
When you fly first class with us, you fly naked.
As I warned, this is not an actual commercial, but when American Airlines(by many accounts although not 100% confirmed) translated their advertising campaign for the Mexican market, their new first class slogan, “Fly in Leather,” was translated into “Vuela en Cuero.”
“Vuela” translates into “fly”
“en” often into “in”
and “cuero” into leather.
The idiomatic expression “en cueros” essentially means “completely naked,” the person that crafted the translation must not have realized the danger in assuming a word-by-word translation always maintains meaning.
This desk was named what effectively translates to something on the order of “Very Fast” in English, the Swedish company didn’t think to rename their innovative child’s desk:
Fartfull describes the desk in Sweden, but to English speakers: the kids that use it.