Category Archives: Grammar Slammer

Fun Friday Post – Advertising Fails

This Fun Friday post brings you a good laugh from advertising gone wrong.

We have seen a lot of campaigns that are misinterpreted when it is advertised internationally. Companies that are well known, such as Pepsi, KFC, Coca-Cola, etc. have made the mistake of mistranslated slogans. We posted, a while ago, about how Pepsi came up with a new slogan and when translated into Mandarin, it transformed into “bring your ancestors back from the dead” – yes, so hilarious!

And now, we’re providing you with more humor and examples of mistranslated slogans from other companies.

  • Nokia’s new smartphone – Lumia – translates to Spanish as the slang word for prostitute.
  • When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, its “Fly In Leather” campaign was translated to “Fly Naked” in Spanish.ip.bitcointalk
  • Coca-Cola phonetically translated the brand name in Chinese- “Ke-Kou-Ke-La,” which means “Bite the Wax Tadpole.”
  • Parker Pen, a ballpoint pen maker, translated their slogan to Spanish to enter the Mexican market. Their slogan is “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” and mistranslated into “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
  • Electrolux, a Swedish vacuum cleaner slogan in the U.S. translates to “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Yeah, they are going to get a lot of sales…
  • images-4When Vicks started providing their products in the German market, they realized later on that the German pronunciation is “Ficks” which translates into “sexual penetration.”
  • General Motors introduced their “Chevy Nova” in South America, and they did not realize that ‘No va’ translates to “It won’t go.”

In conclusion, marketers need to be aware when advertising globally, because a slogan can literally be lost in translation, resulting in a misunderstood campaign. Although they are entertaining, this reflects poorly on the marketers who didn’t take the time to make sure the was represented appropriately in other languages, cultures, etc. If your brand is putting thousands if not millions of dollars into a campaign, the least you can do is check for accuracy!

Sources:

Real Business.” 10 Translated Slogans Gone Wrong– Web. 17 Oct. 2014

13 Funniest Mistranslated Slogans Ever” | DailyCognition.” 13 Funniest Mistranslated Slogans Ever | DailyCognition. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

Grammar Slammer #5 – Hopefully you will read this, I hope

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If the title sounds a little redundant, this is the slammer for you. And if you feel at all uncomfortable in the company of the beloved popcorn icon, Mr. Bieber, then all the more so; let this slammar set you free.

First off, you can’t know how much it pains me to mention his name in these pages, and yet, while this may hit some SEO best practices, this is not the motivation here.

Painful as it is in the extreme, it’s a pale ghost sting in comparison to the irksome pang of our now most common use of the word hopefully; one that I hope shall return one day to its proper place in the lexicon.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, I will share with you the reason it hit the top of the slammer list for this, our fifth in the series.

While old news in today’s 24-second news cycle, it’s a rare opportunity to connect something so momentarily fleeting in this exercise so perennially esoteric. I couldn’t help marvelling at the rare opportunity presented in this month’s exchange between Justin Bieber, in his predictably self-inflating sign-in registry note at the Anne Frank museum, the museum’s response and one of first of many facebook posts in the fraying thread that ensued.

Here’s an excerpt (bolded emphasis ours)

Justin Bieber — “Truly inspiring to be able to come here, Anne was a great girl. ­Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Slammer Note: In other words, “she would have hoped” to have been a “belieber”, (whatever the fuck that is). From this perspective, the quote is even more offensive than it is.

The Anne Frank Museum’s Facebook response — “We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary,”

Slammer Note: Aarg! Here we see the word being used in both its proper and improper senses. Starting out right, they say, “We hope that his visit will inspire..”, but drop the mirror ball at the end implying that readers of her story will do so with hope. Perhaps they will, but I doubt this was the intention.

Possible Headline – “Hopefully, Justin Beiber offends and outrages in an effort to sell more records.”

All abuzz in the sheer stupidity of it, the socialsphere laid into the popcornster with a vengeance including this hopeful rejoinder.

“I hope he revisits the museum again once he is older and hopefully wiser and truly understand the messages of peacefulness, humility and respect that are wound within those walls,” one woman wrote.

Slammer Note: There is precious little chance of Bieber ever arriving at a state of being “hopefully” wiser as it’s clear from his behaviour that he considers himself just wise enough for the butter-soaked popcorn world he occupies.

While all this hope is starting to sound just a little too audacious, I would like to hand it to the Anne Frank Museum communications department for keeping it real, despite the error, by prefacing their positive outlook with the words “we hope”, and, more importantly for taking the high road.

Hopefully, I hope “hopefully” can come to mean what it has always hoped to mean.

Grammar Slammer #4 – Appalling Apostrophes

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Appalling apostrophes are everywhere, and nowhere more chronicly than in the not-so-fine-art of possessives and pluralization. We’re talking today about the nasty habit many copywriters have of putting an apostrophe before each and every suffixed “s” that that comes their way willy nilly.

Since this is a fairly simple matter to clear up, and possibly not worthy of a full slammer, we have elected to tie this particular issue into the larger theme of pride in both its positive and negative senses.

To begin, let’s take a look at the very end of the last sentence, and the beginning of this one. Here we have two grammatical sand traps into which a great many writers fall.

In the first case, we are referring to the possessive “its” relating to our two senses of the word pride. Going straight to the issue, it is at this point teetering on a majority of people who would write this word “it’s”, with an apostrophe, and it’s completely understandable why they do.

By understandable we do not mean forgivable.

It’s understandable because in this case the proper spelling seems like an exception. It’s customary to place an apostrophe before the “s” of any possessive construction, as in; “George’s office is in Gatineau”. So it’s understandable that a good number of people would intuit that the same rule would apply to the possessive “its”, writing it “it’s”. This is the least of the apostrophe offenses, though common enough that it must be flagged and taken out of circulation.

The next offender, and arguably a more egregious one, is the common practice of putting an apostrophe before the pluralizing “s” of any given word. This appears for some reason more frequently when writers are using an acronym that may refer to a collection of organizations or companies in a space; for example, “Most leading NGO’s concur.” Strangely it would be less likely to see this were the sentence to be written as follows; “Most leading non-governmental organization’s concur”. This is such a common error that it often passes the censors, finding its way to many a live web page and final print document.

We would posit that most NGOs, ISPs, VARs and SaaSs would be much better off if they paid more close attention to their use of apostrophes.

Lastly; and this one falls into a special category; we are brought right back to the “its” issue. By some strange feat of invention it is not uncommon to see the possessive “its” spelled “its’”, with the apostrophe at the end. This deserves a double slammer since the apostrophe has no place in the word to begin with, and certainly not at the end of a word that is so very singular. Could it be that in these peoples’ minds, “its” is somehow plural?

And now onto our side theme of pride, in both its negative and positive senses.

While it might seem overly didactic to do so, copy editors gain great insights by not merely correcting their writers’ errors, but also by asking them how they came to them. In the case of the many erroneous itses that appear, were you to ask why they wrote it that way, the answer would most likely go something like this; “yeah, you know, I was never really sure about that.” Your next question might be; “then why didn’t you ask?”.

Rhetorical as it is, it uncovers the rotting heart of bad grammar; the fact that most people’s pride won’t let them ask these basic questions. But when it comes to final copy, allowing basic errors like these to find their way online or into print is not a matter of too much pride, but rather, too precious little.

Grammar Slammer # 2 – The Slammer Gets Slammed, But Not Literally

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We’re pleased to return with our second in the infinite series, the Grammar Slammer. Today’s episode combines a well-worn bug bear rug and a personal anecdote of a grammar slamming gone terribly wrong. Our story points at once to the importance of accuracy in the language and to the fact that unlike with weapons of mass destruction, it’s essential to have all of the facts before you pull the trigger (the writer notes, with tongue securely in cheek).

“I was literally destroyed”

While dramatic in the extreme, and in an era of constant hyperbole (case in point?), the use of the word ‘literally’, as it is so very liberally, literally has got to stop. And it’s not simply that it’s inaccurate in precisely every instance where metaphor or analogy is in use, it is quite metaphorically the prow of the language-killing icebreaker that is colloquial misuse and here’s why.

Because language is a slippery slope and we can expect a near constant evolution, there must remain certain fixed points of meaning that may not be dulled or weakened, lazy handlers be damned. And yet, the Oxford dictionary online concedes. Its entry for the word has been joined by a new definition that quite literally undoes its original meaning. For those of us who hold “literally” to its promise of representing something actual or undisputed, its chronic squandering can provide an entertaining side show of violent and often humorous imagery as you imagine someone being literally at the end of their tether or literally torn asunder.  Ouch!

This is exactly why, when an office colleague from I Can Go Without – let’s call him Josh – excitedly exclaimed, “wow, that’s literally so cool”, my auto-slammer tape ran. Hastily I objected. “I don’t think you meant to say literally”, though I did not know precisely what he was talking about. Being the wise apple “Josh” is, I should have expected the result. “Oh no, no” he quipped with the smile of a skilled entrapper “I was talking about the new fan on my laptop. It’s literally very cool.” I was thus firmly in my place. The short moral is, and the notable exception of WMDs, be darned sure you triple check before you slam.

As we conclude, let’s go back to the “language evolves” argument, and make clear the point. Of course it does. It’s the reason why today we can say things like “you’re so nice”, or “wow that was awful” without giving insult. Our vocabulary evolves, but does it not make sense to keep those words that may serve very specific, precise and perhaps even scientific purposes, safe from play? I think it does. There is no doubt, despite what the postmoderns may say, that dark and dangerous waters are found where absolutes become our bath toys.

Finally, let’s consider the fate of the word Prove. Today the verb describes the act of defiantly and resolutely making your case, while originally it was merely the act of testing. Perhaps this is one of the many seeds that have given rise to the trees, and now the forest of pseudoscience.

Grammar Slammer #1

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It’s rare to strike such a rich, plentiful vein but this gem caught our eye and we just couldn’t resist.

Anyone who’s had an influential grammarian mentor in their past or simply knows
the rules has their share. We’re talking about those pesky, pervasive and ever tenacious
abuses of the language that like an infestation of moths, flutter into the house, and seem impossible to swat out.

From simple word misuse to faulty or misquoted cliches, our language is rife with them. So for all of you language-loving sufferers out there, this, friends, is your oasis – The Grammar Slammer – a new weekly series from the Brendan & Brendan blog.

Here’s what we’re thinking. Each week we’ll prime the pump with a bug bear or two, and that’ll be your cue to let fly. We don’t expect much more than crickets to begin with, but we know you’re out there. Aside from the sheer sweet release we’re hoping through the process to develop a compendium of faux pas’ that we can corner, catch and duly slam.

“Coming Down the Pipe”

How many times have you heard this phrase and thought, “what? wait a minute, that can’t be right? And you’re right, it’s not. The actual phrase is “coming down the pike”, the pike being
a nice old slang shortening of turnpike, referring to a toll, path or railroad line. Obviously the word switch came from the similarity in sound and people’s discomfort with the word pike as it’s not one found in common usage. The comic irony of the switch is that a phrase that once described something good coming, like say, a train car full of goods, has surreptitiously morphed into something much less appetizing often found floating through the sewer. Another reason why this phrase, most often used in business found this particular corruption may stem from the common use of the metaphor “pipeline” to describe a sequence of new products or services.

With all of that in mind, we can not overstate the importance of not letting this stinky little number slip down the pike unnoticed.