Lost in Translation
by Joey Green

Posted on: November 1, 2014 • Originally published in American Way Magazine


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Is it possible to market a laundry soap that sounds sickly, bread that sounds goofy, beer that sounds tainted or pretzels described as “burned meat”? That depends, of course, on the fine art of marketing.

When I took a leave of absence from my job in advertising to backpack through Europe many years ago, I wandered into a grocery store in Stockholm with my stomach growling and bought a candy bar called Plopp—a name that may not sound mouthwatering to anyone familiar with American slang.

In 1949, Cloetta, a chocolate and confectionery manufacturer founded in 1862 by three Swiss brothers — Bernard, Christoffer and Nutin Cloëtta—launched Plopp, a delicious milk chocolate bar with a soft toffee center. In English, the word plop is an onomatopoeia (a word derived from a sound) for the noise a small object makes when dropped into water. It means the same thing in Swedish, but executives at Cloetta fell in the love with the playfulness of the word, which adroitly describes both the way the candy bar is manufactured (the toffee is plopped into chocolate) and how eagerly consumers plop these yummy nuggets into their mouth. Now widely popular, Plopp comes in a variety of flavors, including licorice, currant, caffè latte, and tutti-frutti.

Ever since I discovered Plopp, whenever and wherever I travel, I visit local grocery stores to scour the shelves for products with unintentionally amusing brand names dubbed by companies that—to my delight— innocently misinterpreted English words, thereby creating priceless brand-name blunders. Here are some unique products I’ve come across both abroad and at home that use English names for products with results that are quite humorous.


Noisy Butter
Why settle for quiet, ordinary butter when you can spread something on your toast to wake up the entire neighborhood? Nothing screams butter like Noisy. From France comes butter that if melted and spilled can easily be cleaned up with Shout stain remover.

Introduced in 1992 by the Elle & Vire company, founded as a cooperative in 1945 by farmer Auguste Grandin in the township of Condé-sur-Vire in Normandy, Noisy butter exudes a gourmet hazelnut flavor. The brand name stems from the French word noisette, which means “hazelnut,” explaining the illustration of hazelnuts on the packaging. Ending a product name with the suffix “y” is popular in France, the same way American companies end many product names with the suffix “ex” (such as Kleenex, Playtex, Timex and Windex). In French, Noisy is softly pronounced nwah-ZEE’ (as if butter should be seen and not heard). But I use the English pronunciation because, frankly, I prefer brazen butter, for crying out loud.

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Copyright © 2014 Joey Green. All rights reserved.
Reprinted from American Way magazine.

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