I SAW THE POTATO

Corporate mergers, improved communications vehicles and the opening of foreign markets make this small world cozier than ever. Getting along with our worldwide neighbors means saying what we mean and meaning what we say - their way.

Even corporate giants make mistakes:

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken's "finger-lickin' good" slogan told Chinese patrons to "eat your fingers off."

  • Coca-Cola was first introduced to the Chinese as Ke-kou-ke-la, meaning either "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax," depending on the province. Coke eventually settled on Ko-kou-ko-le, which means "happiness in the mouth."

  • The Pinto was a dismal failure in Brazil. Imagine Ford's distress at learning Pinto is a disparaging reference to the male anatomy. (Renamed the Corcel, meaning "horse," the car is on track once more.)

  • The mystery of low sales for the Chevrolet Nova was solved when the company realized "no va" means "doesn't run" in Spanish.

  • means A-OK to Americans, but beware! This innocent gesture can be downright insulting in some foreign lands, as one international company learned in the nick of time.

  • When the Pope was coming to Miami, one would-be entrepreneur learned the difference a word makes: Instead of "I Saw the Pope," his Spanish-lingo T-shirts announced, "I Saw the Potato."
So to keep your buns out of hot water, we thoroughly research the meaning of gestures and words before they get into print. When we use translators, we make sure they are fluent in the dialect we need - and then, we ask them to do it all again. By using two language experts for every translation, we can get your message right, the first time.