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Watch Those Translations!

Communicating with a target market means more than tossing out catchy slogans. A few companies learned this the hard way when they tried to translate their catchy English slogans directly into Spanish.

  • Braniff beckoned its passengers to “Fly in Leather,” and Eastern Airlines proclaimed that “We Earn Our Wings Daily.” Both of these now-defunct airlines were terribly mistaken. A Spanish speaker would think Braniff was asking its riders to “Fly Naked,” and a Spanish translation of the Eastern slogan evoked a final destination in heaven, following death.
  • A few classic marketing blunders: General Motors discovered too late that “Nova” literally means “Doesn’t go” in Spanish.
  • Coors encouraged its English-speaking customers to “Turn It Loose,” but the phrase in Spanish meant “Suffer from Diarrhea.”
  • Budweiser’s “King of Beers” becomes “Queen of Beers” in Spanish because the Spanish word for beer, “cerveza,” has a feminine ending.
  • And when Frank Perdue said, “It Takes a Tough Man to Make a Tender Chicken,” Spanish speakers heard “It Takes a Sexually Stimulated Man to Make a Chicken Affectionate.”

American Demographics, February, 1992, p.14