The Most Embarrassing Brand Names - and how to Avoid Them

A name is the best advertisement of any company or product. It is all the more embarrassing when one makes a severe blunder when choosing a name; since a name change can be complex and also costly. Some companies have nevertheless in the past managed to step out into the public with such embarrassing names that we want to share with you...

cautious dog

When naming a product, funny ideas will crop up here and there. It can be really embarrassing, however, when one forgets to check the meanings a name might have in other languages. Here are a few "great" examples.

Language barriers and faux pas

Product names often sound perfectly fine in one's mother tongue. Nevertheless, in other languages they can have entirely different meanings. Take the Audi e-tron, for example. The clever minds of the marketing department might have put a little more thought into the name for the French market. In French, étron generally means "turds".

But it's not just Audi that chose a regrettable name for one of its products. In Northern Europe, a few products names were none too flattering in translation. In Scandinavia, Honda was going to release the "Jazz" model under the name "Fitta". However, there the name is a really rude term for the female sex.

The VW Vento offers another example: in a few countries, the name means "fart". The Lamborghini Reventón may indeed look like a race car, but in Spanish the name sounds a lot like "flat tire". Not a great name for a car.



Unwanted meanings

It isn't only in the car market that names can be a little off. The Australian airline Emu Airways has a problem not with its name itself, but with associations with the name. The emu is a beautiful bird, and on Australia's coat of arms. However, it's a risky choice for an airline to take the name of a bird that can't fly. Hopefully that's not an omen.

The Egyptian airline "Misr Overseas Airways" had image problems of its own in the 80s with French tourists. The pronunciation of the word "misr" was too similar to the French word "misère", meaning misery.

And when the Swedish household device producer Elektolux produced a vacuum cleaner, its marketing centered on the slogan "Nothing sucks like an Elektrolux."

With food, one is usually a little sensitive. It's questionable whether the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Berlin did himself any favors by calling his restaurant "Cac China House“ - German for "Poop China House".

How to avoid name glitches

With the handy tool Hidden Words you can check if your name ideas contain other words and if the terms are associated with negative or positive emotions. Hidden Words also finds bad words in different languages.

A name is the best advertisement of any company or product. It is all the more embarrassing when one makes a severe blunder when choosing a name; since a name change can be complex and also costly. Some companies have nevertheless in the past managed to step out into the public with such embarrassing names that we want to share with you.

Two types of embarrassing company and product names

On the whole, there are two types of embarrassing names in business.

  • Names comprising several words, which if written together would give a new meaning: Such a name is mostly only problematic when, for instance, a domain without dashes is chosen and the name thus becomes ambiguous.

  • Names which have an offensive meaning in another language: These names become mostly problematic when an established brand wants to get a foothold on the international market and the name has not been examined for other possible meanings in the national language of the target country.

URL name slip-ups

We shall take a look at some former names – names that are unproblematic until they are used in a URL without dashes. Many of these almost legendary embarrassing domains have meanwhile disappeared. A few are, however, still in existence to this day. These include, for example:

  • - A database of celebrity representatives. What is meant is: Who Represents. One can mistake it for: Whore presents ...
  • (the slogan is, among other things: "We Specialize In Wood”) - manufacturer of high quality pens. What is meant is Pen Island.
  • - Community for language teachers. What is meant is: Teachers Talking.
  • - Wellness Guide. What is meant is: Therapist.
  • - California newspaper. What is meant is Winters Express. One can mistake it for: Winter sex press ...

The following site operators possibly recognised their slip-ups and can now no longer be reached at the offending URLs.

  • - Former site of Swissbit..
  • - Former site of IT Scrap.
  • - Former site of Mole Station Native Plant Nursery.

Avoiding URL name slip-ups

Embarrassing slip-ups such as the ones mentioned above can, however, be easily avoided with some research – either by letting a second or third pair of eyes go through it. Besides the above mentioned Hidden Word Tool, you can also simply check if a name exists in any language. This is especially fast with a tool that can translate words simultaneously into several languages.

The brand new tool from the NameRobot control center finds not only hidden swear words in names, but also all other terms – forward and backward. Maybe there could even be an unexpected positive element in the name which can be used for claims or campaigns. 

A name is the calling card of a company or a product. In the previous blog post, we examined two types of embarrassing company and product names. In this post, we take a closer look at name slip-ups that are likely to occur when entering the international market.

Many names start on their path as national brands and enter the international stage upon being successful. Caution should, however, be exercised here: What sounds good in the local language could carry negative connotations or even be an offensive swear word in another language. However, even large corporations do not always subject their names to scrutiny for the international market.
Here is a collection of the most beautiful yet embarrassing names...

Embarrassing names in the automobile industry

control_center_140Von internationalen Größen aus der Automobilbranche könnte man eigentlich mehr erwarten, aber gerade Markennamen von Fahrzeugen scheinen besonders anfällig für internationale Namenspannen zu sein. In einigen Fällen bemerkte der Hersteller die negative Bedeutung glücklicherweise rechtzeitig und wählte für die Vermarktung im Ausland einen anderen Namen.

Examples of vehicle names with ambiguous meanings are:

  • Mitsubishi Pajero: The name means “Wanker” in Spanish.
  • Toyota Fiera: In Spanish, the name means something like “hideous”.
  • Lada Nova: The name can be translated to “no way!” in Spanish.
  • Ford Pinto: The name carries the meaning “coward” or “small penis” in Spanish.
  • Opel Ascona: In Spanish, the name includes a reference to the female sex (“Cona”).
  • Mazda Laputa: The name means “harlot” in Spanish.
  • Nissan Moco: The name is Spanish for “glanders”.
  • Toyota MR2: The name is pronounced similarly to “Merdeux” (“little shit”) in French.
  • Fiat Regata: The name has a close meaning to “quarrelsome wife” in Swedish.
  • Fiat Uno: This is how one refers to an idiot in Finnish.
  • Kia: The name of the car brand is identical with the American abbreviation for "killed in action".

Inappropriate international brand names in the field of technology

wordshop_140Slip-ups are also a common phenomenon in the technology field when a brand name is created or enters the international market.

  • Nintendo Wii: The name of the game console reminds of the English colloquial term for urine.
  • Siemens Sirotec: The name for the robot technology is pronounced as “Zerotec” in English-speaking countries and means “zero technology.”
  • Trekstor i.Beat-Blaxx: the racist-sounding MP3-player was renamed “Blaxx” shortly after its release.
  • Clairol Mist Stick: The name of the curly hair stick is an unpleasant reminder the German word for cow dung.

Name slip-ups for foodstuffs

word_import_140Similarly, such blunders are also likely to be encountered during the naming of foods and beverages.

  • Nestlé Nescafé: "n'es café" means “is not coffee” in Portuguese.
  • Coca Cola: The original transcription of the lemonade in Chinese was “Kou-ke-kou-la” (“a thirsting mouth and a mouth full of candle wax” or “a female horse filled with candle wax”). Fortunately, the name was changed to “Ke-kou-ke-le”, meaning “palatable and happy.”
  • Dairy produce manufacturer Pet: In French, the name means “fart” – no success in marketing the product in the French-speaking regions of Canada.
  • Vegetable producer Kagome: On the Iberian Peninsula, this Japanese name means “I have peed in my trouser”.
  • Punica: The name is a rather obscene expression in Hungary.
  • Biersorte Koff: The Finnish name sounds like the English word for “Cough”.

Other name slip-ups

...and finally, some additional slip-ups of company and brand names from different fields

  • Servicio de Hosteleria Industrial de Terrassa: The Spanish service provider confidently uses the abbreviation S.H.I.T. - No explanation necessary.
  • Kinki Nippon Tourist Company: In English, the name means "travel agency for perverted Japanese tourists" and was therefore quickly changed.
  • Fluglinie Misair: The name of the Egyptian airline sounds like the French word for "misery".
  • SciFi Channel: The nickname "SyFy" of the Science fiction TV station also happens to be a colloquial term for syphilis.
  • Colgate Cue: The toothpaste shares its name with a famous porn magazine in France.
  • Puffs Tissues: The brand name of the American handkerchiefs did not go down well with the consumers in Germany because nobody wanted to buy "brothel-handkerchiefs."

generatoren_illuBy the way: It is unclear whether the naming for the current World Cup mascot, an armadillo named Fuleco, was a glitch or not. The word has been newly coined from "futebol" ("football") and "ecologica" ("Ecology"). Some media claim that the name is also a colloquial term for "ass" in Brazil. Other sources dispute that the word carries this meaning.

Regardless of this, in the Brazilian vernacular, the armadillo is named "Tatu Bola" because it rolls itself into a ball ("bola") whenever it senses danger. How fitting!

Do you have similar examples of poorly thought out product names? Write to us in the comments!

Looking for creative name ideas?

With your NameRobot company name generator you can find the desired name for your business.

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This blog post was created by the NameRobot team or in collaboration with other brand naming enthusiasts. Would you also like to submit an article on naming? Please send us your topic suggestion (new/unique/professional) to

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