Buy an IKEA bed and have it away in Thailand. Promise

June 5, 2012

And now for something in the great tradition of Opel cars that break down, but only in Spain – and Pepsi Cola that brings your ancestors back from the grave, if you’re Chinese.

The IKEA Redalen bed, on sale in the global furniture retailer’s recently opened Bangkok superstore, is apparently a lot more seductive in Thailand than Sweden – Redalen sounding suspiciously like a word meaning advanced foreplay. Presumably, the bed can be bought in a job lot with the Jättabra plant pot, which appears to offer seventh heaven into the bargain. Bewildered Thais could not be blamed for attempting to invoke the local version of our Trade Description Act on discovering the products were not, after all, vested with mysterious aphrodisiac powers.

Product names getting lost in translation is an increasing problem for companies as the whole world becomes a potential market. Some other recent corkers:

The Mitsubishi Pajero: the car company noticed too late that pajero means “wanker” in Spanish. It was later renamed Montero.

When Sharwood’s spent millions of pounds launching a new curry sauce in 2003 called Bundh, the firm was deluged with calls from Punjabi speakers who said the new offering sounded like their word for “backside.”

In China, Microsoft’s search engine Bing sounds like “illness” or “pancake” when spoken in local dialects. Microsoft executives expertly changed the search engine’s Chinese name to biying, which also referred to a longer Chinese expression ‘you qui bi ying’, roughly meaning “Seek and Ye Shall Find.”

IKEA’s solution to the problem has been to employ a team of local Thai translators who purge the furniture names of stressful double entendres.


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