Humourous Language Mistakes

Humourous Language Mistakes

Let’s have another giggle at some of the crazy translations and mistakes that have happened in the world!


Foreigners can have problems with both the vocabulary and grammar of our complex and idiomatic tongue. The following misusages have been spotted around the world:


  • In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time
  • On a box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life
  • In a Thai advertisement for donkey rides: We have our own ass if you would like to take a ride
  • On a detour sign in Japan: Stop: Drive Sideways
  • In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions
  • Over the bathroom sink in a Mexican hotel: The water has been passed personally by the hotel manager
  • In a hotel room in Cambodia: Sorry for guests who have problem, and thank for guests who have no problem
  • Outside a Paris couturier: Dresses for streetwalking
  • In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts
  • In a German lift: Do not enter the lift backwards and only when lit up
  • In a Norwegian lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar
  • For visitors to the Czech Republic: Take one of our horse-driven city tours: we guarantee no miscarriages
  • In a Mexican hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water used here
  • In a Bangkok drycleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results
  • In a German maternity ward: No children allowed in the maternity ward
  • In a Hong Kong dress shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs
  • In a Paris hotel: Please leave your values at the front desk
  • In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid
  • In a doctor‘s surgery in Rome: Specialist in women and other diseases
  • In a Danish airline office: We take your baggage and send it all directions
  • In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid
  • In the lobby of a Bucharest hotel: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable
  • In an Athens hotel: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily
  • In a Viennese hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter
  • In an Acapulco hotel a sign read “The manager has personally passed all the water served here”.
  • On a sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose
  • On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.
  • In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin
  • In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.


In their eagerness to move into and conquer new markets, many huge Western companies forgot to do their homework. When the name Microsoft was first translated into Chinese, they went for a literal translation of the two parts of the name; unfortunately that meant it was called “small and flaccid“.

Pepsi‘s famous slogan “Come Alive with Pepsi” was dropped in China after it was translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

When General Motors tried to market the Chevy Nova car in Central and South America, they overlooked the fact that Nova means, “it doesn’t go” in Spanish.

When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its “Fly In Leather” campaign literally, which meant (vuela en cuero) “Fly Naked” in Spanish.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious pornographic magazine.

Coca-Cola was horrified to discover that their name was first read by the Chinese as Kekoukela, meaning either “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent kokou kole which translates as into “happiness in the mouth”. Pepsi, meanwhile, (who have made numerous translation mistakes in the past) told its Chinese customers that their drink would bring their dead relatives back to life.

When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. However, the company’s mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.

The Swedish vacuum cleaner company Electrolux told Americans that “nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.

Clairol messed up with their translation in Germany and made the mistake of trying to sell customers a manure stick instead of a mist stick for their hair!

Coors Beer told customers that their beer made people have diarrhoea. What they meant to say was that it “loosened you up”!

The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem – Feeling Free,” got translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty”



What a fine array of products the world has in its shop window:

  • Atum Bom – Portuguese tinned tuna
  • Bimbo – Mexican biscuits
  • Kevin – French aftershave
  • Polio – Czech detergent
  • Vaccine – Dutch aftershave
  • Flirt – Austrian cigarettes
  • Meltykiss – Japanese chocolate
  • Climax – Kenyan disinfectant
  • Hot Piss – Japanese antifreeze spray
  • Naked – New Zealand fruit and nut bar
  • Noisy – French butter
  • Last Climax – Japanese tissues
  • Happy – Swedish chocolate
  • Prison – Ugandan body spray
  • Puke ­- Turkish playing cards
  • Skum ­- Swedish Confectionery
  • Arses – Spanish red wine
  • Ass Glue – Chinese blood tonic made from boiled donkeys
  • Bum – German lavatory paper
  • Cock Drops – Cypriot cocktail bitters
  • Colon Plus – Spanish detergent
  • Crap – French chocolate
  • Dribly – Italian lemonade
  • Mental – Italian breath fresheners
  • Mercy – Japanese lavatory paper
  • Plop – Swedish chocolate bar
  • Plopsies – French breakfast cereal
  • Trim Pecker – Japanese men’s trousers
  • Zit – Greek lemon and lime soft drink
  • Lady Gay ­- Kenyan hair wax
  • Sico – Guatemalan condoms
  • Corny – Belgium muesli bars
  • Schmuck – German confectionery
  • Grizly – Chilean savoury snacks
  • Slag ­- Dutch lager
  • Love Body – Japanese soft drink
  • Flirt – Belgian chocolate wafer
  • Preen – Indian laundry soap
  • Bra – Swedish milk
  • Tit Bits – Indian mouth fresheners
  • Toss – Kenyan laundry detergent
  • Chief Whip – American cigarettes
  • Bang Bang – Spanish chewing gum
  • Noisy – French butter
  • Yes – Swiss chocolate
  • Yes – Swedish washing up liquid
  • Squirt – Guatemalan soft drink
  • Bum Bums – Spanish chewing gum
  • Pile – French scratch card
  • Nuk – Spanish rubber teat
  • Invisibles – French pasta

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