You would think a company as big as Coca Cola, which operates in so many countries and so many languages, would know better. But then, companies are only as smart as the people who work there, and I guess someone dropped a ball on this one.
A campaign for Coke-owned Vitamin Water put randomly generated words on the bottle caps, one in French and one in English. Customers were supposed to collect the caps to combine words into humorous sentences. The intent was that Anglophones would use the English words and Francophones would use the French ones. All well and good, but some words just don’t cut it in translation.
An Edmonton woman opened her bottle to read “you retard.” Her younger sister is developmentally delayed so she and her hubby were particularly upset at the slur. But if you know French, you’ll know that “retard” means late en français. It just means something else entirely in English. And apparently there were also caps with the French word for shower, “douche,” which of course has a whole other meaning in English. I’m sure if we put our minds to it, we’d find a bunch of other words that give offence in the other language.
To Coke’s credit, once they were called on it (by a public letter from the Edmonton woman’s father), they immediately canceled the promotion campaign and apologized properly. They told Canadian Press that the mistake was:
…an oversight on our part during that review process.
Besides cancelling the campaign, the spokesperson said the company will destroy all of the caps with words printed on them.
How much money was wasted on this word game just because no one thought to review the word list in both languages?Reminds me of a travel company I know that posts signs they see with bizarre translations.