Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mind the Teddy Bear

Mark McCrum provides some tips on avoiding inter-cultural insults. An excerpt:

Even the most powerful corporations have fallen into similar heffalump traps. When Pepsico launched in China with the cheery slogan "Come alive with Pepsi", it little realised it would come out in Chinese as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead".

The Italian car firm Fiat's launch of "the stylish Pinto" in Argentina was somewhat compromised by the local slang use of "pinto" for the male organ. Similarly, the Dublin?based makers of the after-dinner liqueur Irish Mist were probably foolish not to have realised that "mist" in German means "manure".

Gestures are another area where care must be taken. As George W Bush stood watching his second inaugural parade in January 2005, he held up a fist with the forefinger and little finger extended.

Where he comes from, this is the victory salute of the University of Texas Longhorns, the "hook 'em horns". Not so in Italy, where the same sign can imply that a man is a cuckold. In Norway, it's the sign of the devil, more often used by fans of dodgy heavy metal groups than world leaders.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

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