Maybe it's time Kraft Foods think about a way to incorporate "from Russia with love" as a new slogan.
The company announced on Wednesday that it has proposed to call its global snack company Mondelez International Inc., and while some journalists debated the choice and merits of the proposal, Crain's Chicago Business's Kate MacArthur did some digging and found that in Russia, "mohn-dah-LEEZ" (the word's pronunciation, according to the press release from Kraft) can sound similar to a term used for oral sex.
"There is a rather vulgar word, 'manda.' [Mondelez] includes the sound of that word," Irwin Weil, professor of Russian language, literature and music at Northwestern University, told Crain's Chicago Business. MacArthur writes that "the second half of the name roughly translates into the sex act, say Russian speakers."
The Huffington Post confirmed with a native Russian speaker that the phonetic description provided in the release refers to oral sex performed on a woman. He described the term as "really dirty."
He added that while it's an old term not used frequently anymore, it would be understood by people in many countries of the former Soviet Union, not just in Russia.
This is by no means the first time that a company's branding has been lost in translation, so to speak.
"There are all kinds of urban legends about this kind of stuff, especially in the marketing, advertising and branding world," Rob Frankel, a Los Angeles-based branding expert and consultant, told HuffPost.
"I know for a fact that when Volvo first came to America, it wasn't exactly embraced with open arms," he said, referring to the similarity between the Swedish car manufacturer's name and female anatomy.
And speaking of cars: Acording to the BBC, General Motors had to change the name of its Buick LaCrosse sedan in Canada after it found that the word LaCrosse is slang for masturbation in Quebec.
If you visited luxury car company Bugatti's website in December 2010, you would have found a car available in "rape yellow," the result of French to English translation error of "rapeseed plant."
Crain's Chicago Business spoke to Kraft about the risqué translation of Mondelez, so click here to read the company's response.
The new name is not yet final -- shareholders will vote on it at a May meeting.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Kate MacArthur, the reporter who first broke this story, as a reporter for AdAge. She is a reporter for Crain's Chicago Business. Crain's Chicago Business and AdAge are both owned by Crain Communications Inc and have content sharing agreements. The Huffington Post has changed the references and links in the story to reflect this.
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