Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 27/4/2006 We all know the stories about brandnames gone wonky. How Coca-Cola in Chinese transliterates to "Bite theWax Tadpole", how the Nova car meant "no go" in Spanish, how Googlesounds like "the stench of a rutting warthog" in Mongolian.

Thursday 27/4/2006

We all know the stories about brand names gone wonky. How Coca-Cola in Chinese transliterates to "Bite the Wax Tadpole", how the Nova car meant "no go" in Spanish, how Google sounds like "the stench of a rutting warthog" in Mongolian. Some are true, some urban legend, all illustrate the pitfalls of cross-language branding.

My favourites involve bodily functions. GEC Plessey Telecommunications, an august institution used to working in a dignified fashion with important people in governments, might have thought it was merely acquiring a modern sheen when it rebranded itself to GPT. Pronounced in French, though, those three letters amount to a confession of personal gaseous emission — ah, a schoolboy howler of the first order. Still, anyone can make a mistake.

It's hard to see Nintendo's choice of name for its new console as an accident. The console previously known as Revolution — nothing wrong with that — has now been christened. It's a little difficult to imagine the meeting where senior executives gathered excitedly around their new baby while the CEO solemnly intoned — "I name this child... Wee." Sure, it's spelled Wii and it's tempting to suppose it should really be pronounced "Why?", but it's wee. Nintendo insists.

Let's get the jokes over with. Yes, it'll be hard going into a retailer and saying "I need a Wii" or "Have you got Super Monkey Wii"? One will need chutzpah to come into work on a Monday and say "I've spent all weekend playing with my Wii" or "What I like about Wii is the way the controller feels in your hand". There will be more.

Linguistically, it's interesting. There are only two previous words with "ii" — skiing, and the recently coined yet scarcely less riisible Viiv, That's pronounced "vyve", making all three examples incompatible. Perhaps Intel and Nintendo can form a group and settle on an IEEE international standard to sort it out. If it's anything like recent efforts it'll end up with 802.ii.a — "To rhyme with Eeee", 802.ii.b — "To rhyme with Aye", and 802.ii.c — "To rhyme with Being". We can then write article after article about "standards group torn by division", PRs can brief us over expensive lunches about why choice is good for the market and the other lot are just dangerous bandits, and everyone else can sigh miserably and go out to buy something completely different.

I don't suppose it matters. The gruffest Glaswegian can say "Ah fancy a wee sweetie" without feeling his manhood impugned, people take the EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment seriously enough, and our octogenarian Windsor employs the Royal We at all times. Even Winny the Pooh got over it.

Now, about this vPro...

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