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...
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 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.
In an effort to boost orange juice sales in predominantly continental breakfast eating England, a campaign was devised to extoll the drink’s eye-opening, pick-me-up qualities. Hence, the slogan, ”Orange juice. It gets your pecker up.”
By the way, these are all true!
A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.
A SOCIALIST: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
AN AMERICAN REPUBLICAN: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?
AN AMERICAN DEMOCRAT: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.
A COMMUNIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
A FASCIST: You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.
DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.
CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.
BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, then pours the milk down the drain.
AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.
A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.
A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.
A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. They are mad. They die. Pass the shepherd’s pie, please.
AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.
A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.
A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.
A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.
AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship both of them.
A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.
AN ISRAELI CORPORATION: There are these two Jewish cows, right? They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?
AN ARKANSAS CORPORATION: You have two cows. That one on the left is kinda cute.
Vice Presidents and personnel directors of the one hundred largest corporations were asked to describe their most unusual experience interviewing prospective employees... A job applicant challenged the interviewer to an arm wrestle.
Interviewee wore a Walkman, explaining that she could listen to the interviewer and the music at the same time.
Candidate fell and broke arm during interview.
Candidate announced she hadn’t had lunch and proceeded to eat a hamburger and french fries in the interviewers office.
Candidate explained that her long-term goals was to replace the interviewer.
Candidate said he never finished high school because he was kidnapped and kept in a closet in Mexico.
Balding Candidate excused himself and returned to the office a few minutes later wearing a headpiece.
Applicant said if he was hired he would demonstrate his loyalty by having the corporate logo tattooed on his forearm.
Applicant interrupted interview to phone her therapist for advice on how to answer specific interview questions.
Candidate brought large dog to interview.
Applicant refused to sit down and insisted on being interviewed standing up.
Candidate dozed off during interview.
The employers were also asked to list the ”most unusual” questions that have been asked by job candidates.
”What is it that you people do at this company?”
”What is the company motto?”
”Why aren’t you in a more interesting business?”
”What are the zodiac signs of all the board members?”
”Why do you want references?”
”Do I have to dress for the next interview?”
”I know this is off the subject, but will you marry me?”
”Will the company move my rock collection from California to Maryland?”
”Will the company pay to relocate my horse?”
”Does your health insurance cover pets?”
”Would it be a problem if I’m angry most of the time?”
”Does your company have a policy regarding concealed weapons?”
”Do you think the company would be willing to lower my pay?”
”Why am I here?” Also included are a number of unusual statement made by candidates during
the interview process... I have no difficulty in starting or holding my bowel movement.
At times I have the strong urge to do something harmful or shocking.
I feel uneasy indoors.
Sometimes I feel like smashing things.
Women should not be allowed to drink in cocktail bars.
I think that Lincoln was greater than Washington.
I get excited very easily.
Once a week, I usually feel hot all over.
I am fascinated by fire.
I like tall women.
Whenever a man is with a woman he is usually thinking about sex.
People are always watching me.
If I get too much change in a store, I always give it back.
Almost everyone is guilty of bad sexual conduct.
I must admit that I am a pretty fair talker.
I never get hungry.
I know who is responsible for most of my troubles
If the pay was right, I’d travel with the carnival.
I would have been more successful if nobody would have snitched on me.
My legs are really hairy.
I think I’m going to throw-up.
Personnel executives of 100 major corporations were asked for stories
of unusual behavior by job applicants.
1. ”... stretched out on the floor to fill out the job application.”
2. ”She wore a Walkman and said she could listen to me and the music
at the same time.”
3. ” A balding candidate abruptly excused himself. Returned to office
a few minutes later, wearing a hairpiece.”
4. ”... asked to see interviewer’s resume to see if the personnel
executive was qualified to judge the candidate.”
5. ”... announced she hadn’t had lunch and proceeded to eat a
hamburger and french fries in the interviewer’s office - wiping the
ketchup on her sleeve”
6. ”Stated that, if he were hired, he would demonstrate his loyalty
by having the corporate logo tattooed on his forearm.”
7. ”Interrupted to phone his therapist for advice on answering
specific interview questions.”
8. ”When I asked him about his hobbies, he stood up and started tap
dancing around my office.”
9. ”At the end of the interview, while I stood there dumb-struck,
went through my purse, took out a brush, brushed his hair, and left.”
10. ”... pulled out a Polaroid camera and snapped a flash picture of
me. Said he collected photos of everyone who interviewed him.”
11. ”Said he wasn’t interested because the position paid too much.”
12. ”During the interview, an alarm clock went off from the
candidate’s brief case. He took it out, shut it off, apologized and
said he had to leave for another interview.”
13. ”A telephone call came in for the job applicant. It was from his
wife. His side of the conversation went like this: ”Which company?
When do I start? What’s the salary?” I said, ”I assume you’re not
interested in conducting the interview any further.” He promptly
responded, ”I am as long as you’ll pay me more.” ”I didn’t hire him,
but later found out there was no other job offer. It was a scam to
get a higher offer.”
14. ”Candidate said he really didn’t want to get a job, but the
unemployment office needed proof that he was looking for one.”
15. ”Pointing to a black case he carried into my office, he said that
if he was not hired, the bomb would go off. Disbelieving, I began to
state why he would never be hired and that I was going to call the
police. He then reached down to the case, flipped a switch and ran.
No one was injured, but I did need to get a new desk.”
BLAMESTORMING- Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
SEAGULL MANAGER- A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.
CHAINSAW CONSULTANT- An outside expert brought in to reduce the employee headcount, leaving the top brass with clean hands.
CUBE FARM- An office filled with cubicles.
IDEA HAMSTERS- People who always seem to have their idea generators running.
MOUSE POTATO- The on-line, wired generation’s answer to the couch potato.
PRAIRIE DOGGING- When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on.
SITCOM- (Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage) What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
SQUIRT THE BIRD- To transmit a signal to a satellite.
STARTER MARRIAGE- A short-lived first marriage that ends in divorce with no kids, no property and no regrets.
STRESS PUPPY- A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
SWIPED OUT- An ATM or credit card that has been rendered useless because the magnetic strip is worn away from extensive use.
TOURISTS- People who take training classes just to get a vacation from their jobs. ”We had three serious students in the class; the rest were just tourists.”
TREEWARE- Hacker slang for documentation or other printed material.
XEROX SUBSIDY- Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one’s workplace.
GOING POSTAL- Euphemism for being totally stressed out, for losing it. Makes reference to the unfortunate track record of postal employees who have snapped and gone on shooting rampages.
ALPHA GEEK- The most knowledgeable, technically proficient person in an office or work group.
ASSMOSIS- The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.
CHIPS & SALSA- Chips? Hardware, salsa? Software. ”Well, first we gotta figure out if the problem’s in your chips or your salsa.
FLIGHT RISK- Used to describe employees who are suspected of planning to leave a company or department soon.
GOOD JOB- A ”Get-Out-Of-Debt” Job. A well-paying job people take in order to pay off their debts, one that they will quit as soon as they are solvent again.
IRRITAINMENT- Entertainment and media spectacles that are annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them. The OJ trials were a prime example. Bill Clinton’s shameful video Grand Jury testimony is another.
PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE- The fine art of whacking the heck out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
UNINSTALLED- Euphemism for being fired. Heard on the voice-mail of a vice president at a downsizing computer firm: ”You have reached the number of an Uninstalled Vice President. Please dial our main number and ask the operator for assistance. *(Syn: decruitment. )
VULCAN NERVE PINCH- The taxing hand position required to reach all the appropriate keys for certain commands. For instance, the arm re-boot for a Mac II computer involves simultaneously pressing the Control key, the Command Key, the Return Key, and the Power On key.
YUPPIE FOOD STAMPS- The ubiquitous $20 bills spewed out of ATMs everywhere. Often used when trying to split the bill after a meal, ”We each owe $8, but all anybody’s got are yuppie food stamps.”
SALMON DAY- The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
CLM- (Career Limiting Move) Used among microserfs to describe ill-advised activity. Trashing your boss while he or she is within earshot is a serious CLM.
ADMINISPHERE- The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often
profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
DILBERTED- To be exploited and oppressed by your boss. Derived from the experiences of Dilbert, the geek-in-hell comic strip character. ”I’ve been dilberted again. The old man revised the specs for the fourth time this week.”
404- Someone who’s clueless. From the World Wide Web error message ”404 Not Found,” meaning that the requested document could not be located.” Don’t bother asking him... he’s 404, man.”
GENERICA- Features of the American landscape that are exactly the same no matter where one is, such as fast food joints, strip malls, subdivisions. Used as in ”We were so lost in generica that I forgot what city we were in.”
OHNOSECOND- That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a BIG mistake.