As someone who was prevented from partaking in any form of Halloween festivities as a child by a father who said it was “only for Americans”, I’ve had to suppress my ghoulish side for quite some time. But now I’m free from parental influence, I can make up for lost time in the form of a Halloween blog that will chill you to your bones.
Cue evil laughter: Mwahahahahahhahahahahahah…
As any regular followers of the Linguistica Translation and Recruitment blog will know, we sometimes feature examples of terrifyingly bad translations. Well, these shocking mistakes come with a horrifying twist, in that they are all clean towards the darker side of life. So be warned linguaphiles – this is not for the faint-hearted!
Cue malevolent ghost: Whoo-oo-oo-oo…
1. Pepsi can resurrect the dead, apparently
We always put the restorative powers of Pepsi down to the almost unfathomable amount of sugar it contains, but it must have something stronger in it than that. After all, according to a Pepsi slogan that was translated for the Chinese market, ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’. It doesn’t, of course. That was simply a mistranslation of the original slogan, ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’. Still, fiendishly bad work there from an organisation that hardly needs to skimp on translation costs.
2. Some characteristic warmth from Russia
The height of the cold war is probably not the best time for a translation mistake, but indeed, that is the fate that befell the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev. During a speech he made about the heightened tensions with the US, a phrase he uttered was mistranslated as “we will bury you”. In truth, what he actually said, “we will live to see you buried”, is not exactly warm, but at least it doesn’t imply that he will be doing the burying.
3. A free dead body with every Ford
Rather than metallic paint or alloy wheels, the carmaker Ford inadvertently advertised a benefit that most car buyers would probably prefer not to have. They boasted to their Belgium audience that ‘Every car has a high-quality corpse’. What they really wanted to emphasise was their outstanding level of manufacturing, but they mistranslated the killer slogan ‘Every car has a high-quality body’. Granted, that slogan’s not exactly inspired, but at least there are no funeral costs to worry about.
4. Fly naked with Braniff Airlines
The now-defunct Texan airline, Braniff Airlines, led a campaign with the slogan ‘Fly in leather’, referring to the airline’s brand-new leather seats (were they leatherette? We’re not sure). Unfortunately, when translated for the Mexican market, that slogan read ‘Fly naked’, which may or may not be a scary sight depending on who you’re sat by.
5. Rush to die in a Mercedes-Benz
These days, the Chinese love a luxury Western brand, but when the German carmaker Mercedes-Benz first entered the Chinese market, it made life difficult for itself. It shortened its name to ‘Bensi’ to make it easier for the locals to pronounce, which translated as ‘rush to die’. That’s not a great name for a brand that prides itself on its safety. It quickly changed its name to Benchi, which translates as the only marginally better ‘run quickly as if flying’.
Avoid a Halloween horror show with Linguistica Translation and Recruitment
So, there you have it, a translation horror show courtesy of some of the biggest brands on the planet, and Braniff Airlines. Rather than scaring the life out of your customers, invest in professional translation services from Linguistica Translation and Recruitment and deliver word-perfect messaging every single time.