Barbara, my literary agent, e-mailed me yesterday with a publishing dilemma. A translated copy of my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, was going to press in Brazil—but the publisher there said the book would not be taken seriously unless we changed my name on the front cover.
Why? Because my name, Bolsta, without the “l,” leaves “bosta,” which in Portuguese translates to . . . ummm, well . . . excrement.
Hilarious! I told Barbara to publish the book under the name Philip Charles, which is my first name and middle name. An easy fix.
When I told this story to an Iranian friend of mine, she informed me that Philip in Farsi means elephant. So of course my sister started calling me Elephant Excrement.
UPDATE: In September 2011, I started to tell this story to my daughter’s yoga teacher, who is from Brazil. All I had to say was that my book was translated into Portuguese and that my name was spelled B-O-L-S-T-A . . . and she burst out laughing! As my daughter commented, it’s nice to know that I am the laughingstock of an entire country!
Sixty Seconds is also being translated into German, Italian and Spanish. As far as I know, my name in those languages doesn’t equate to excrement or profanity, so we should be good to go!
Click here to visit the website of my Brazilian publisher.
Click here to visit the website of my Italian publisher.
Click here to order the Italian translation from Amazon.
Click here to visit the website of my German publisher.
Click here to order the German translation from Amazon.
Click here to visit the website of my Spanish publisher.
Click here to order the Spanish translation from Amazon.
Ironically, considering my Brazilian language snafu, I had written an article for Twin Cities Business magazine about companies that come up with names for products and organizations. In the following sidebar to the article, I wrote about foreign business translations gone bad. Get ready for some good yuks!
In 2002, Nametag International was wrapping up a project to name a new-generation healthcare information solution for one of the leading global manufacturers of engineering and electronics products. Nametag had screened the name Soarus in eight languages by running it through World Test, a linguistic screening tool that helps clients understand what a name might mean in other cultures. At the eleventh hour, the company mentioned it was planning a joint venture with an Israeli company, so Nametag added Yiddish and Hebrew to the mix. Oops. World Test spat out a sound-alike Yiddish word, tsoris, which meant “trouble and suffering.” Undaunted, Levin and Young began tinkering away. A few tweaks here, a few tweaks there, and they ended up with Soarian, a name that retained the strategic position of “rising above new heights” and allowed the company to own a truly global brand with no cultural difficulties.
Not all companies are so thorough. Here are our favorite naming nightmares.
• Coca-Cola in China was translated to Ke-kou-ke-la on thousands of signs. Unfortunately, the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect.
• In Taiwan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” was translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”
• When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Unfortunately, the company thought the Spanish word embarazar meant “to embarrass.” Mexican consumers were amused when they heard the claim, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
• When chicken tycoon Frank Perdue’s slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” was translated into Spanish, it got horribly mangled. A photo of Perdue with a chicken appeared on billboards in Mexico with the caption, “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused.”
• Speaking of chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan, “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated to “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese.
• Hunt-Wesson unveiled its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means “big breasts.” Interestingly enough, sales were strong.
• Colgate launched a toothpaste in France called Cue. Ouch. That happened to be the name of a notorious French porn magazine.
• When Japan’s second-largest tourist agency entered English-speaking markets, the requests for unusual sex tours began pouring in. It didn’t take long for the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company to change their name.
• The Spanish translation of Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose,” is “Suffer from diarrhea.”
• Shortly after offering the “Mist Stick” curling iron in Germany, Clairol discovered that “mist” is German slang for manure.
• Northwest Airlines slogan, “Gives wings to your heart,” was translated into Japanese as “Put feathers on your blood pump.”
• Red-faced officials at General Motors in Canada scrambled to come up with a new name for its Buick LaCrosse after discovering that LaCrosse was a slang word for sexual self-gratification among teenagers in French-speaking Quebec.
• GM has plenty of company in the “sexual faux paus” department. Mitsubishi was forced to change the name of its Pajero model in Spanish-speaking countries, where the word is a slang term for “masturbator.”
• And the Ford Pinto flopped in Brazil because in Brazilian Portuguese slang, “pinto” means “tiny male genitals.” Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means “horse.”
• Toyota’s naming blunder was a tad milder. Its Fiera raised eyebrows in Puerto Rico, where “fiera” translates to “ugly old woman.”
• Perhaps the most famous automobile naming gaffe was when General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova south of the border. In Spanish, “no va” means “it won’t go.” When GM figured out why it wasn’t selling any of the cars in Spanish markets, Nova was replaced by Caribe.
And the award for the most hilarious foreign language blunder goes to English opera singer Tony Henry, who sang the Croatian national anthem (or at least tried to) before a 2008 soccer match between England and Croatia in London’s Wembley Stadium.
Henry should have sung “Mila kuda si planina” (which roughly means “You know, my dear, how we love your mountains”). Instead, he sang “Mila kura si planina,” which can be interpreted as “My dear, my penis is a mountain.”
What a difference one letter makes! Click here to read the full story of how Henry has become a folk hero in Croatia! Croatians are calling for Henry to be awarded with a medal and appointed their team’s official mascot!
Click here to view all my posts related to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.
Click here to see all my humorous posts.
ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
If you feel more stressed than blessed . . . if you have more confusion than clarity about how to live your beliefs . . . if you long to live a richer, happier, more meaningful life . . . you will find a wealth of insight and guidance in Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.
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Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to be.
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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT
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Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.
• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
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THROUGH GOD’S EYES PDF SAMPLER
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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.
Order it at GodIsLogical.com.
In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?
Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.
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Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.