Mondelez: Weird Kraft Name Is Sexually Explicit in Russia, And Other Hilarious Translation Errors

on March 23 2012 1:54 PM

Poor Kraft.

All the food company wanted to do was evoke the fanciful notion of a delicious world. But ever since a new division of the company proposed the name Mondelez International Inc., critics have scoffed all over it.

On Thursday, it got even worse: the Chicago version of the business newspaper Crain's reported that the name -- pronounced mon-da-LEEZ -- sounds sexually explicit in Russian. This could lead to a bit of a roadblock when it comes to marketing munchies in Moscow.

The sad story began with a press release on Wednesday. Kraft recently split into two divisions: one to pursue the snack industry globally and another to focus on North American groceries. To distinguish the global side of the business, headquarters suggested renaming it Mondelez. (The North American branch will be called Kraft Foods Group, Inc.)

The press release eagerly explained the odd choice: Monde derives from the Latin word for 'world,' and 'delez' is a fanciful expression of 'delicious.' In addition, 'International' captures the global nature of the business.

But an astute reader of Crain's wrote to explain that in Russia, Mondelez sounds pretty vulgar. The first two syllables sound like a profane way to refer to female genitalia, and the last syllable roughly resembles a verb meaning oral sex.

Looks like Mondelez won't be peddling pastries in St. Petersburg.

The unfortunate moniker joins a long list of hilariously ill-conceived translations that have sullied the reputations of some global companies.

In 1972 and 1978, Chevrolet erred by marketing their Nova model in Mexico, Venezuela, and other Spanish-speaking countries. No va, as it turns out, means it doesn't go in Spanish. Luckily, according to Snopes, the error did not result in a sales slump.

A pharmaceutical company once set out to market a weight-loss pill under the name Tegro, reports CNN. In French, the word sounds like t'es gros, meaning you're fat.

Then there's the famous Parker Pen Co. incident; back in 1935, the company was marketing fountain pens that wouldn't leak into pockets and ruin anyone's crisp, white business shirt. So the company translated its slogan -- It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you! -- into Spanish, they used the verb embarazar. Unfortunately, that means impregnate, not embarrass.

And just this Thursday, a website selling knock-off clothing -- they pretended to be an Abercrombie & Fitch outlet  --  apparently had some trouble translating from the original Chinese text. They described the color of a brown pair of pants using a racist epithet, sparking outrage on Twitter.

So the beleaguered Kraft marketing team can take solace in the fact that they're far from the first American company to get hopelessly lost in translations. 

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