March 19, 2006

"Here Today, Gone Tamale!" Or Something Like That

From the files of too darn funny:
(CBS4 News) MIAMI Companies which market their products in a language other than English need to take special care to send the right message, or they run the risk of saying more than they mean. For example, General Motors tried to sell it’s Chevy Nova in Spanish speaking countries without realizing in Spanish, No Va means “doesn’t go”, not a great name for a car.

Now, another car company is having to re-think a Spanish language ad campaign, after Volkswagen tried to market a new turbocharged GTI 2006 with the phrase, “Turbo-Cojones”, plastered up on billboards across Miami, where better than one in two people speak Spanish.

The problem is that while often used by English speakers as acceptable slang for “guts” or “courage”, in Spanish, the word ‘cojones’ describes a part of the male anatomy generally not plastered across billboard, and certainly not as part of polite Spanish speech. Formally translated, ‘cojones’ describes a man’s testicles, something most companies would not put on an English language billboard. . .

. . .Now, Volkswagen has decided to yank the turbocharged billboards down in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York, all areas where you have to have a lot of ‘cojones’ to use a billboard like that.

In its place, Volkswagen will use another phrase in Spanish to market its hot new car. A flash picture of the GTI will be emblazoned on the new billboard along with the suggestion that the car could “Kick a little gracias”.

Maybe they should stick to German.
This marks one of the few times--like the example of the Nova--where a native-speaking opinion should be sought to "iron" out the rough edges that are inherent in translation. Volkswagen's earlier campaign, where Americans were urged to enjoy fahrvergnügen--literally "driving pleasure"--translates much easier and gives an exotic edge to the cars, and made for some interesting parodies (farfrompukin' was my personal favorite). Given the PC mentality that usually governs such situations nowadays, it would not be surprising to see both VW marketing and advertising types get some much needed "diversity" training. Not caving in to such pressure? Now that would take some cojones!

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