Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lost in Translation

Many years ago, Chevrolet released a car called the “Nova.” My wife, Anna, was one of the many individuals to own such a car: a car that was great for a while, but made us very sad when I had to drive my then-fiancée to work for several weeks—and very happy to have AAA Plus when we had to tow it just over 100 miles from her old apartment in Bloomington to our first home in Lafayette. She would eventually get the car fixed and sell it to her younger sister, who has herself long since moved on to a newer (and thus, more reliable) vehicle. Despite all this, however, my wife generally enjoyed her Chevy Nova for the time that she had it. Until that fateful day that it had a major problem (I think it was the alternator), it had been a pretty good little car.

Unfortunately, this wonderful little hatchback’s success was—shall we say—limited outside the United States. It’s not that it wasn’t dependable; it was. It’s just that when they tried to export it to Latin America, they wasted a lot of money promoting the poor thing before discovering that the problem wasn’t the car, it was the name. You see, in Castilian, “no va” means “It doesn’t go.” It was like trying to sell a car called the “Chevy Immobile.” It just wasn’t going to work.

Conclusively proving that those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, this problem has manifested itself in more recent times, as well—this time, in yet another gigantic company that should really know better but constantly shows us that it doesn’t. That company is Microsoft. A few years back, Microsoft released their ostensible iPod-killer, the Zune (which, incidentally, I’ve only seen in stores. I think the same sister-in-law that bought the Nova from us actually has one, but it’s not like she’s pulling it out to show people). Much like the Chevy Nova, the Zune was discovered to be highly unsuccessful in—strangely enough—Israel. Eventually, somebody pointed out that “Zune” is homophonous with the Hebrew equivalent of the past tense of the F-bomb. Not as strong, mind you—it’s actually more akin to saying “screwed”—but probably not the best name for a product, y’know?

Well, the beauty of life is that anyone can be forgiven for their mistakes. Since Microsoft obviously screwed up by not looking into the meaning of “Zune” in foreign languages, they’re obviously smart enough that they’re not going to make that mistake again, right? Right?!

So why did it not surprise me when I found this in a fortune cookie, a few days ago?

Way to hit one out of the park in the world’s largest market, guys.


  1. LOL!!! Is this for real?! What a hilarious post! I can't imagine going to search website called :-) Thanks for sharing this. It's the best thing I've read in a very long time.

  2. Absolutely for real, my friend. That embedded JFIF is an actual scan of the back of my fortune: “A secret is no longer a secret by the time it gets to you.” ;-)