On the naming of names

Used to be a Mexican American comedian who had a great riff on the way that people didn\’t properly consider how the name of a product worked in other languages.

One example was the Chevy Nova. To a Spanish speaker this could easily be taken to be Chevy No Va. And what\’s the point of a car that doesn\’t go?

We seem to have another one from the Finns. The Nokia Lumia is one of their brands. Might not play out so well in certain parts of the Spanish speaking world (I think it\’s actually only parts of Spain but….)


(De or. inc.).

1. f. p. us. prostituta.

20 thoughts on “On the naming of names”

  1. In parts of the English-speaking world, “Nokia” probably earned a few salacious giggles until it became familiar.

  2. Over here we have Spit and Festool hand tools, Crapy roadsigns.
    Madame Blot does the admin for my boy’s rugby team, for all I know her husband is a landscape gardener.

  3. Jars of fish sauce available in the “world foods” aisles of various supermarkets in the melting pot that is SE16, SE8, SE10. The product is called Shito.

  4. Oh dear, this is all rather old.

    Jasper Carrott did a routine 25 years ago about the problem that Australians had when they visited the UK only to discover that, over here, the brand name ‘Durex’ does not relate to rolls of sellotape, while Clive James had a high old time running foreign TV ads for a beer called ‘Plop’ and the Swedish equivalent of Andrex – ‘Krappa’.

  5. Ikea seem to take pleasure in having product names that you would think would make them unsaleable, but evidently don’t. You can put your bra in an Ikea Bra wardrobe and do whatever seems best at an Ikea Jerker desk.

  6. one I found out this week was Colgate’s issues breaking the Spanish-speaking world, on account of “colga te” meaning “go hang yourself”

  7. Alas, Flatcap Army, it would be cuelgate. But never mind, we still have the Mitsubishi Pajero. Come to think of it didn’t British Leyland produce an Austin Wanker way back in the seventies?

  8. Wouldn’t get too bothered. Just asked someone who’d know if anyone would & just got a blank look. Or maybe it’s some Spanish other than Colombian or Castillian. Certainly not in my Spanish edition Collins. Or archaic. Puta works all right round here. On the other hand, back in the Smoke I’d be talking about ‘toms’ & losing most of you lot.

  9. jorge c. // Nov 3, 2012 at 7:38

    Peter S.: In Argentina & Uruguay, we say “colga te” and not “cuélgate”…

    I didn’t know that Jorge. I’m Peruvian.


  10. best ever was in Hongh Kong – tothpaste with the logo…”Smile that darkie smile for me!” With a picture of a blacked-up minstrel.

  11. This meaning of “lumia” is old news, both in the sense that it was reported when the name Lumia was announced, and then it was reported that this Spanish meaning is so outdated that no one has a problem.

    Myself, in 1997 I visited Düsseldorf and saw a large neon sign for Persil, and thought “you can never sell that stuff in Finland” (Finnish perse = gluteus / intergluteal cleft). Five years later, it was a mainstream soap brand just like any other one.

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