There are common brand names on local supermarket shelves that make English speakers laugh

The title of this month’s column is of course a partial quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the full version being “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, the female protagonist’s famous reference to names not mattering, or at least that Romeo’s family name did not matter to her. I chose it here because I was recently encouraged by a reader to write something about names that are often an unexpected source of humour.

Actually, if we go all the way back to my first ever piece for this magazine, many moons ago, we might recall that it was based on the fact that Spanish Christian names can often seem inappropriate in English, Jesus being one example. Well this time it’s the turn of a few brand names that raise the odd eyebrow among English speakers visiting the Iberian Peninsula for the first time.

Just as Pee Cola brings a smirk to most native English speakers’ lips when they visit Ghana, and China’s Puke crisps will cause even the most defiantly unamused tourist’s eyes to roll, there are common brand names on local supermarket shelves that make English speakers laugh, if not think twice about purchasing them.

It’s a problem that has bugged companies for many years, trying to ensure a brand name hits the right note with consumers, and millions of euros, dollars, yen etc. are often invested in market research before a new brand hits the market. Japanese companies seem to have a particular knack for creating brand names that make Spanish speakers wince, with cars by the name of Laputa (Mazda) and Pajero (Mitsubishi) not making it on to the Spanish-speaking markets, although US manufacturer Chevrolet also deserves an honourable mention in this regard with their infamous Nova model.

So which brand names attracted the aforementioned reader’s attention here? Well, the two that stand out are well-known coffee and bread brands. The former is of course Bonka, the main stem of which – bonk – in colloquial British English is a word that refers to sexual activity, making this particular brand of coffee perhaps that little bit more attractive to some, although fairly ridiculous in the eyes of most. And the bread brand is of course Bimbo, a word that originally in US English and now in international English refers to “an attractive but unintelligent or frivolous young woman”. Again, not a brand name that would survive long on the shelves of an English-speaking country.

Unrelated to brands but relevant to this topic is a little restaurant that sometimes gets a mention in guiri circles, especially those with adolescent kids, located on the back roads to El Montseny near Parets del Vallès. Its name? Can Fart.


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