Title of today's post comes from one of my favorite books from business school, Another One Bites the Grass: Making Sense of International Advertising by Simon Anholt, a former advertising exec. One of the points he makes in the book is the danger of problematic brand names in the international sphere. He mentions many famous stories such as the idea that Coca-Cola meant "bite the wax tadpole" in Mandarin and was therefore changed to sound more like "makes the mouth happy." But he also mentions a few I had never heard such as the Chevy Nova, which means "Chevy doesn't go" in Spanish. A nice cold Pschitt, anyone?
We face this problem at Vocollect due to a name someone chose many years ago. Voice...collect...Vocollect. Makes sense in English, right? But in Spanish "colec" means "collective" (not bad) and "colect" means "garbage collector" (not so hot). In French, the sound is like "collection of calf" (also not so hot). Then there is the Talkman device. In Norwegian, the word "tok" means "building," which is not bad I guess considering that our product is used in large buildings.
When naming a product, some basic research on Google Translate might be in order. I personally favor made-up brand names. Google is a good example, an easier-to-spell bastardization of the number "googol." Alternatively, consider a brand name with positive associations in major romance languages if you ever plan to expand to Canada or Mexico, our largest trading partner in the U.S. The brand name "Liberto" would sound a little like "liberty" in English, Spanish, and French, and it would be fairly defensible trademark because it's a made-up word.
When I run the zoo, that's just what I'll do.