Mr. Copywriting

Translation Errors

Trust me!  Although these are funny, you don't want to end up with these on your documents.

Here are some advertising "oopsies" translated into other languages, and signs and notices written in "English" that were discovered around the world.  We hope you enjoy them with moderation and caution.

Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge, these mistranslations are true, thus they contain material that some people might find offensive or inappropriate... which is one more reason to have your materials translated by a professional!


When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, "Fly in Leather," it came out in Spanish as "Fly Naked."

Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."

The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read "Are you lactating?"

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."

Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron, into German only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick."

When Vicks first introduced its cough drops on the German market, they were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of "v" is "f," which in German is the guttural equivalent of "sexual penetration."

Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its product, only to learn that "Puff" in German is a colloquial term for a whorehouse.

The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries. "No Va" means "It Does Not Go" in Spanish.

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."

For the Chinese market, the name "Coca-Cola" 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."

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."

When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as here in the USA--with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is inside since most people can't read.

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."

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."

Ford had some problems in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals".  Ford pried off all the nameplates and substituted them with Corcel, which means horse.

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."

Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." It's not certain why sales skyrocketed in the French market.

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.

Signs and Notices

In a Tokyo Hotel
Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing is please not to read notis.


In a Bucharest hotel lobby
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.


In a Leipzig elevator
Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.


In a Belgrade hotel elevator
To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.


In a Paris hotel elevator
Please leave your values at the front desk.


In a hotel in Athens
Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.


In a Yugoslavian hotel
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.


In a Japanese hotel
You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.


In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery
You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.


In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers
Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.


On the menu of a Swiss restaurant
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.


On the menu of a Polish hotel
Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.


Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop
Ladies may have a fit upstairs.


In a Bangkok dry cleaner's
Drop your trousers here for best results.


Outside a Paris dress shop
Dresses for street walking.


In a Rhodes tailor shop
Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.


A sign posted in Germany's Black forest
It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.


In a Zurich hotel
Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.


In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.


In a Rome laundry
Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.


In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency
Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no miscarriages.


Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand
Would you like to ride on your own ass?


In a Swiss mountain inn
Special today -- no ice cream.


In a Bangkok temple
It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.


In a Tokyo bar
Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.


In a Copenhagen airline ticket office
We take your bags and send them in all directions.


On the door of a Moscow hotel room
If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.


In a Norwegian cocktail lounge
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.


In a Budapest zoo
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.


In the office of a Roman doctor
Specialist in women and other diseases.


In an Acapulco hotel
The manager has personally passed all the water served here.


In a Tokyo shop
Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are best in the long run.


From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner
Cooles and Heates If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.


From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.


Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance
- English well talking.
- Here speeching American.


In a Hong Kong supermarket
For your convenience, we recommend courageous, efficient self-service.


On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong:
Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.

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