Lost in Translation
by Joey Green

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Bishops Finger
One of the oldest bottled beers in the United Kingdom, Bishops Finger does not contain a finger—like the agave worm found at the bottom of a bottle of mescal. A bishop never dipped his finger into a vat of the beer, nor—thankfully—is the ale brewed from the severed fingers of clergymen.

Who’s responsible for the odd name? Point the finger at Laurie Neame, managing director of Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery, founded in 1698 in Faversham, a market town in Kent.

In 1958, shortly after the rationing of malt ended in the wake of World War II, head brewer Gordon Ely produced the brewery’s first strong ale from homegrown malted barley and Kentish hops. Neame named the beer to commemorate the finger-shaped signposts unique to Kent that pointed pilgrims along the route to the tomb of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral—before its destruction by Henry VIII in the 16th century.

Burnedmeat Flavour Biscuits
“Burnedmeat Flavour Biscuits” may sound inedible, but rest assured the name merely reflects a mistranslation by Dongguan City Golden Fuji Food Co. in Guangdong, China. Chinese manufacturers also give their products English names without concern for negative connotations. Burnedmeat Flavour Biscuits actually taste delicious, like spicy, grilled pretzels. The Chinese characters on the package literally translate to “crispy delicacy fried meat flavored stick-cake.” A savvy English-speaking advertising copywriter would likely have given the product a more appetizing name, like “barbecue-flavored pretzel sticks.” The evocative name Burnedmeat does capture the attention of food shoppers—making the name seem like inspired genius.

Founded in 1996, Dongguan City Golden Fuji Food Co. develops and manufactures a wide variety of biscuits, cookies, wafers, shaqima (a Chinese pastry), and egg rolls—sold throughout China and around the world. According to the Golden Fuji website, the company hopes “to develop more excellent products and service for customers. Let us work hand in hand to build a brilliant future!”

Well, you have to admit “Doom” sounds much catchier than “Armageddon” or “Judgment Day.” Besides, nothing sells like overkill. Why simply exterminate bugs when you can annihilate them with “deadly killing action”? It’s slightly redundant, sure, but what good is an insecticide with “non-deadly killing action”?

For manufacturer Tiger Brands Ltd. in Bryanston, South Africa (a suburb of Johannesburg), every day is Doomsday— for flying and crawling insects— which makes the company a genuine merchant of doom. At www.doom.co.za, you can watch a series of astoundingly clever commercials for the subtly named insecticide. Surprisingly, the company has yet to market a sister product for Doom called Gloom, which might make an excellent name for an air freshener, a window cleaner, or a floor wax.

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


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