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Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle

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The Obama Sock Monkey: Popular in Japan. Considered racist in America. Adorable everywhere.

A Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle is sort of meeting between a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment and Values Dissonance. It's different from Values Dissonance in that it isn't a case of different cultural values which makes for the potential wince, but rather when an accidental reference to something negative and well known in one country or culture is made unknowingly by a program from another.

One of the most famous examples could be the swastika - in Buddhist countries, it's a benevolent symbol of the sun. In the West... not so much.

This could be merely amusing, but the potential offense is the more notorious version of this trope.

See also: Culture Clash, "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, Values Dissonance, V-Sign. A Clean Dub Name might be related to this.



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  • HSBC in the UK had adverts which ran on this trope. One such example sees an English businessman sitting down to a dinner hosted by a Chinese Executive he is trying to woo. The first course is served and the Englishman isn’t exactly thrilled with what’s on his plate but follows his instinct and dutifully clears his plate, out of politeness. Cue the host shouting at the waiting staff to order him a larger portion of what he just had. Rinse & repeat… Several times!
    Voiceover: In parts of China – it is bad manners to clear your plate as it is seen as a challenge to your host’s hospitality.
  • This Japanese mobile phone ad depicts an Obama rally with red 'Change' signs and the company's mascot, a monkey, on the podium. And that's all that needs to be said about this.
    • In a similar vein, a German frozen food company launched a product named after Barack Obama following the 2008 elections. The actual food item being named after the new President was, of all things, fried chicken.
  • An Australian KFC ad caused a bit of a kerfluffle in the United States. It showed an awkward white Australian cricket fan surrounded by hundreds of cheering black West Indies fans (who were the upcoming opposition) before he offered them all fried chicken. The ad was from a series of "cricket survival guide" ads showing the Australian solving various problems with KFC so he could enjoy the cricket. So the Australian train of thought was simple - being surrounded by supporters of the opposing team is awkward, offer KFC, everyone has a good time. When the ad was leaked internationally, American commentators saw a white guy placating scary black people with fried chicken and called racism. This confused the Australians since the "black people like fried chicken" stereotype is not widespread there.
  • Australia's "So where the bloody hell are you?" tourism campaign. The British did not like the word "bloody". The Canadians did not like the word "hell". The Singaporeans did not like either. Overlaps with Did Not Do the Bloody Research, as "bloody hell" is a fairly mild oath in Australia.
  • A story goes that a Pepsi ad that showed pictures of, from left to right, a man dying of thirst in the desert, drinking a Pepsi, and looking energetic and happy again, failed miserably when it was used in countries that read right-to-left.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Hyuga branch line curse mark in Naruto was changed from a manji (or swastika in Sanskrit, and consequently in Buddhist scriptures) to an "x" because the former Nazi connection; it stayed in the English manga, however.
    • Also, another issue that has some questioning is Itachi being considered a hero despite what he did. In Japan, it wouldn't seem all that strange, but to the English-speaking people, they all feel it's a bad example of a Mary Sue who shouldn't have all this praise. In fact Itachi's mind raping of Sasuke and murder of the Uchiha were considered necessary by him in order to keep a lasting peace by eventually having Sasuke become powerful enough to kill him and end all of the old traditions of the Uchiha that would always threaten to start a new war. While it didn't end well, everybody knew he was willing to do anything for his goals, and in Japan his goals were considered the highest duty one must perform and so the Japanese see him as a hero because he was willing to murder and torture Sasuke to give him power from the Sharingan, whereas most English speakers wonder why he's supposed be considered a hero after doing that stuff.
  • The manji issue came up again much more prominently in Blade of the Immortal where it was both the name and personal insignia of the main character. Rather than redraw his kimono with its prominent manji design every time Manji appeared on the page, Dark Horse Comics instead opened every single one of its 31 volumes with a lengthy explanation about the history of the manji and its total lack of connection to the Nazi party (for one thing it's the inverted manji, which the Nazis used as their symbol).
  • Similarly, this happened in One Piece. Whitebeard's flag originally had swastika-like crossbones but was changed from that chapter-on-out to be more like a plus sign.
  • Kaede's Instant Fanclub in SHUFFLE! is called Kitto Kitto Kaede, or KKK; all the girls' fan clubs have some sort of alliterative acronym. The English dub changes this to Knights of Kissing Kaede to preserve the Alliterative Names of all the fan clubs — but every time the club is mentioned, someone notes that they're "not the guys with the sheets".
  • Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 film Laputa: Castle in the Sky had its first word dropped for releases in Spanish-speaking locales and anywhere near them (including the USA), as la puta is Spanish for "the bitch" or "the whore". However, the name "Laputa" is a reference to a country in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver’s Travels, and Swift almost certainly was aware of the implication. The English dub consistently pronounces it "LAP-yu-ta" (like the Japanese do minus the L/R thing) to downplay the similarity.
  • In Bleach the hilt of the sword of the protagonist in its bankai (upgraded) mode is the character manji, which as stated in the Naruto example above, is a swastika.
  • During the first Tournament Arc of Yu Yu Hakusho, Urameshi fights a ninja with a shaven head and a manji tattoed on his forehead. Since the Manji, as mentioned above, bears a strong resemblance to the Swastika, the first thing a western audience would think of him is 'Skinhead Neo-Nazi'.
  • Darker Than Black has a "Heaven's Gate'' over Brazil (the counterpart to a "Hell's Gate" over Tokyo). To a western audience, the term is probably better associated with Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles' comet cult and their horrible end.
  • Chile has quite many words with dirty connotations, so names like Piccolo sounds like "pico" (Lit. Beak or peak, used as a slang for penis), Mr. Popo (Baby talk for "poto" and/or "popo", butt and poop respectively) or Pichu (short for "pichula", very vulgar expression also meaning penis) doesn't go unnoticed by dirty minds over there.
  • Similarly to Jynx from Pokémon, Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball is often pointed at as a racist character, being a tubby Blackface-looking character in Arabic clothing who acts as a caretaker and, more pertinently, servant to the Guardian of Earth, leading to black slavery connotations. Outside of the home releases of the show, he is often digitally coloured blue with his big pink lips removed, the latter of which the ViZ translation of the manga also follows.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's Schutz Heiliggruppe. Sure, the intention (portraying superheroes from modern Germany who hunt down Nazi war criminals) is laudable, but the execution... Oh boy!
    • Let's start with the group's name itself. It is supposed to mean Group of Protecting Saints, but actually translates to Protection Holy-Group. (The intended figurative meaning was League of Guardian Angels, which would in German be Liga der Schutzengel. The translation published in Germany simply went with Helden-Liga —> Hero League). Granted, Gratuitous German is bad, but not really offensive. Perhaps they aimed for Schutzheiligen-Gruppe, which would be Group of Patron Saints; a bit closer, but still wrong.
    • The leader of the group is Hauptmann Deutschland. Obviously, he is intended to be the German counterpart of Captain America, complete with a name that is a direct translation of Captain Germany and a flag-costume. The problem: That sort of Patriotic Fervor makes Germans, who know better than most how badly that sort of thing can get out of hand, a bit uncomfortable. (Since the Football World Cup 2006, displaying patriotism in a modest degree may be more acceptable, but the Schutz Heiligruppe had been introduced before that event). And the fact that a military rank is part of his name makes it even worse. Marvel later changed his name into Vormund. Intended meaning: Guardian. Actual meaning: Legal Guardian. D'oh! (The correct term would be Wächter, the translation published in Germany went with Freiheitskämpfer —> Freedom Fighter)
    • And the second member of the Schutz Heiligruppe is Blitzkrieger (Lightning Warrior): A member of a group which is dedicated to exterminating Nazism, is named after... an infamous war tactic, invented by the Nazis. (The translation published in Germany just went with Generator, due to his electricity-related powers).
    • The third member is Zeitgeist. Nothing offensive here. (Phew!) Just maybe a bit unimaginative, considering that Zeitgeist (Time Spirit) happens to be a quite well-known word among English native-speakers.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014)'s lead is Kamala Khan. Her parents named her Kamala because, in Arabic, Kamal means "perfection". In Finnish, however, the word "Kamala" translates to "horrible."

  • When We Were Kings: George Foreman arrives in Africa for the fight with Muhammad Ali in the company of his pet German shepherd. All it means is that George Foreman likes dogs, but in the Belgian Congo, the Belgian slavedrivers used German shepherds to terrorize and control the workers. The locals, already inclined to prefer Ali, become even more so.
  • Star Wars features the unfortunately named Jedi Master Yarael Poof. (For the uninitiated, "poof" is British slang for homosexual.)
  • The Story of the Weeping Camel: The Mongolian teen boy who is sent off to the village to get a musician, as well as fetch other necessities, is called "Dude". It's pronounced with two syllables, "doo-duh."
  • The Swedish word for "The End" is "Slut". This can make for odd moments for an English-speaker watching old Swedish films with end title cards. Silent films The Phantom Carriage and Häxan, both deadly serious dramas, end with "Slut" title cards.

    Light Novels 
  • Sukasuka didn't sell well in Russia and other Slavic-speaking countries there due to the fact that the title alone means "bitch"note  in their native tongue. When considering the existence of a certain criminal organization that has a major foothold in these countries, this naturally got the author and publishers of the novel in trouble.

  • A minor, comical example can be found in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. During the section explaining how scientists view of the Babel Fish has allowed for the final proof of the non-existence of God, it is said how one can then go on to prove black is white and promptly get run over at the next zebra crossing. In Britain and many other countries, black-and-white striped "Zebra Crossings" are the equivalent of the (often yellow and consisting of two parallel lines stretching from curb to opposite curb to walk between) American "Crosswalk"note . Americans, when reading the joke, usually imagine the term as an equivalent to a "Deer Crossing" (that is to say, a place where zebras cross) which makes for an equally humorous though wildly different joke.
    • In at least one Swedish translation, "zebra crossing" was translated literally into "zebrakorsning" which has no connotations to traffic at all. It could be interpreted as "cross-breeding of zebras" which doesn't make much sense, or "crossing a zebra" (as in travelling across it) which makes even less sense.
    • In-universe is an ill-timed remark by Arthur Dent which happens to coincide with the opening of a small space/time wormhole, the other end of which is at a war negotiation long ago in a distant galaxy, where the phonemes of his comment just so happen to translate into the vilest killing insult either species has on hand.
    • Another in-universe example would be the word Belgium being the universe's most offensive swear word. Imagine the mayhem if Belgians ever developed space travel...
    • You also don't want to play (or even pretend to play) cricket in front of any alien. To a human, it's just a game. To an alien, it's a mockery of the most horrific interstellar war in the history of the galaxy.
  • In The General, the Skinners (nomadic barbarians) refer to the main character as "half-man", which pisses of one of his subordinates. The main character takes his subordinate aside and explains that to the Skinners "half-man" is high praise of a non-Skinner. In the Skinner language, the words for Outsider and "not-man" are the same, as are the words for Skinner and "Real Man". By calling him "half-man", they are saying he's much better than almost all others.
  • In the first Dune novel, after meeting Duke Atreides the Fremen representative spits on the floor, and before the Atreides' guards can go for their weapons because of the insult someone familiar with the Fremen culture steps in to explain this is actually a sign of deep respect — Arrakis is a desert planet and water is so scarce (to the point that dead bodies have their water recycled) that "offering up one's water" is an almost sacred act. Both sides laugh it off and continue introductions.
    • Inverted later. . . Paul kills a Fremen warrior in an honor duel and is so shook up at the man's funeral he cries. The Fremen are awed that "he gives water to the dead," helping to cement Paul's place in their messianic prophecy.
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon's League series: A fantastic version of this meets Unfortunate Names, Dancer Hauk. On his native world Dancer means Protector and is suitably manly. Everywhere else it means Dancer, like the profession.
  • Discworld: Goblins have Names That Unfold Like Lotus Blossoms and consider it a deadly insult to call someone by only a fraction of their true name. Humans tend to be The Nicknamer. One goblin politely explains to Moist that he should never abbreviate his name again; another goblin grants a trusted human serious N-Word Privileges by allowing him to use a nickname.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures episodes "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? I & II" have a character who chooses to switch fates with Sarah Jane, and the fate is drowning (or possibly from the impact from falling from a pier into the sea, it's not clear). Her name was Andrea Yates, which is the same name as that of an American woman who drowned her own children. Several American fans winced and called this distasteful on the Outpost Gallifrey forums, but was confirmed unintentional by writer Gareth Roberts who would've used another name had he known otherwise.
  • Reversing the countries (though it wouldn't have caused offence but laughter), the captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01 was almost called Jeffrey Archer until UK fans pointed out it wasn't quite the straight-arrow name they had in mind.
  • A first season episode of Mork & Mindy was heavily censored when it was first run in the UK because of a character named Arnold Wanker. Oops.
    • UK viewers still titter at the closing credits of any Buffy episode where Thomas Wankernote  is listed as the composer. (In the States, it's the word "titter" that would cause... giggles.)
  • The 1982 BBC adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor featured fairy disguises that looked remarkably like Ku Klux Klan costumes.
  • Due South may have suffered in the eyes of British viewers because the Mountie's hot boss had the same name as the most hated (and admired; being divisive was actually part of her policy) woman in recent British history.
  • In Doctor Who:
    • When the Ninth Doctor said "You see what I mean? Domestic!" in response to Mickey several American fans expressed disgust at his apparent racism; however this was a misunderstanding of the language. In the UK "Domestic" isn't really used to mean "Domestic servant", but rather "Domestic argument" or in this case "mundane and boring". Not that it's used that way very often in most parts of the US, either.
    • The otherwise well-regarded Tom Baker serial The Talons of Wang-Chiang was flatly refused by PBS and other non-British rebroadcasters due to the extensive use of yellowface and the straight Yellow Peril villainous depiction of most of its Chinese-British characters. Not by all, as it was shown several times on the WOSU PBS station in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-'80s to '90s time frame.
    • The Twelfth Doctor story "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood" featured a deaf UNIT officer, Cass, who communicated entirely in British Sign Language (and was played by the genuinely deaf actor Sophie Stone). Some American viewers who knew American Sign Language accused the actors of "making up gibberish gestures" and insulting deaf people, not knowing that while the two countries both use English as a spoken language, the two sign languages are very different and not mutually comprehensible.note 
  • Played with in an episode of 30 Rock in which Jack struggles to come up with a name for a mini-microwave which is not offensive in any language.
    Jack: Every one of the names we came up with was offensive in some language, including English, Frank.
    Frank: They knew what a "Hot Richard" was?
  • In the final episode of M*A*S*H, Klinger gives Soon-Lee Han one of his wedding dresses to let her know he'd like to marry her. She's puzzled as to why he'd give her a funeral dress (given that white is a color of mourning in Korea).
  • In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch the main character sings a song to herself that goes like: 'Shake your whammy fanny, funky song'. That is fine in the US where fanny is another word for bottom. In the UK, not so much.
  • In the 1983 Sesame Street special "Big Bird In China", Big Bird and Barkley encounter the Monkey King during their trip. While Chinese viewers obviously recognized the character, there was a backlash from Western parents. They were complaining that their children were terrified by the character. In-universe, Big Bird himself nearly had a heart attack the first few times the Monkey King appeared out of thin air.
  • De Ideale Wereld featured once a sketch, called De Russische Ideale Wereld that presented their show as if it was run by Russians, complete with people speaking in real Russian. The few Russians that saw it did not like it and threw slants at Dutch because of they were portrayed as perverted, alcoholic, homophobic, Putin-worshiping assholes. It goes full circle if you know that the show is in fact from Belgium.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The episode "Destiny" shows that Cardassians argue and demean each other to flirt. This comes up when O'Brien is arguing with a female Cardassian scientist he's working with. She thinks he's flirting with her and tells him that she's fertile and could provide him with many children. O'Brien has a Flat "What" moment and has to explain to her that he's already Happily Married.
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy meets a Vietnamese guy named Dong and laughs at his name (which besides meaning penis in English, it just means winter in his mother tongue). However, when Kimmy tell him her name, he laughs at her because he claims that Kimmy in Vietnamese also means penis.

  • Rock singer Meat Loaf wanted to show a German audience that not only did he enjoy performing for them, but he enjoyed being a guest in their country. Since the only German he knew was limited to sausage related words, he decided to fly the red, black and gold at his concert. He didn't realize that Germans aren't as gung-ho about their flag as Americans are.
  • A similar event happened when Lady Gaga held up a Northern Irish flag at a concert in Ireland, an extremely offensive and troubling gesture.
  • Dave Mustaine of Megadeth made a similar error during a gig in Northern Ireland when he dedicated a song "for the Cause!" during an encore, not realising that not all people in Northern Ireland see themselves as rebels against the British, and started a riot. The band subsequently received serious death threats during the remainder of the tour. The incident partly inspired the lyrics of the song "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due".
  • This Arab-Israeli patriotic song is really infamous in Russian internet circles. It is called "Bladi" (Arabic for "my country"), which sounds like "whores" in Russian. The first words of the chorus - "Ya bladi, jawwek hadi, ma ahlaki, ya bladi" (O my country, your climate is soft, what is more beautiful than you, o my country?) - sounds rather close to "Where do whores live, yeah, the whores, the furry whores?" in Russian. The rest of the song sounds no better, what with misheard "Russian" lyrics someone provided. Given that a huge proportion of Israeli Jews are Russian-speaking, it's a wonder no one in the audience burst into laughter.
  • Pete Doherty, formerly of The Libertines, received hostile reactions at a German show that was being broadcast live on radio when he sang the original first verse of the German national anthem, the Deutschlandleid, not being aware that only the third verse is currently used in official situations and that use of the first verse in public can have controversial political implications.
  • The original video for Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" did not go over well in the US. It showed Boy George being tried and judged before a jury in Blackface. Julien Temple, the director, was trying to make a point about certain conservative politicians and judges who'd spoken publicly against homosexuality or taken actions against gay rights were themselves widely known to be closeted; however that was completely lost on the US audience, for whom blackface is a shameful reminder of minstrel shows and other practices now past, and the second version was made for MTV.

     Professional Wrestling 

    TV Tropes 
  • When someone, especially someone from The European Union, sees the term 'EU', it is usual for a pause before realising what is meant is that other EU (Expanded Universe). Also, some people from Spanish-speaking countries may think you are referring to the United States (Estados Unidos), although the normal Spanish abbreviation for the United States is EE.UU (because E.U. is the typical Spanish abbreviation for the Mexico.)note  It also happens in French-speaking areas, where the United States is les États-Unis (the accent is often dropped on capitals and/or when typed on English keyboards).
  • Similarly any reference to "America" is confusing. It can either mean the USA, the North American continent, or the South American continent. Many Europeans and Latin American countries tend to view both North America and South America as one continent and everyone in them as Americans while English speaking countries don't.
  • There's always some well-meaning Grammar Nazi wiki editors going back and forth on regional spellings of words here on the site, for instance, Americans correcting "colour" to "color" and Brits switching it right back. Eventually, they realize that on an international site like this either spelling is fine. It gets worse over on The Other Wiki, which attempts to have guidelines regarding when and where to use Commonwealth versus American spelling, guidelines that have angered more than a few people and led to at least one "rival" wiki.note 
  • The differing uses of the word "wank" in British and internet circles wank are semantically connected but very different in rudeness level. In Britain (and Australia) it's a fairly harsh swearword. Not one of the worst, but bad enough to be censored on telly, etc. It refers (explicitly or obliquely in different contexts) to masturbation. The internet version has broadly the same meaning - by referring to something as 'wank' it's identifying it as self-indulgently onanistic; comparing geekily convoluted fan-theorising to masturbation. But perhaps because in this case the reference to masturbation is always oblique, the word is considered far less rude. In fact, it's not really considered a swear-word at all online, it's just a useful word. It can be a little jarring for British Tropers, therefore, to see the word used freely and often in contexts that become uncomfortable when its Britsh meaning is taken into account.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Those familiar with the idioms of English-speaking gay subcultures are generally amused to hear players of tabletop and video game Role-Playing Games using the word "twink" to refer to a player who customises their character in unusual, tedious and frowned-upon ways. In tabletop games, it's often synonymous with munchkin or power-gamer, while in online games it usually means a newly created character who has been given advanced-level equipment way above their power level from one of the player's more experienced characters. None of which would suggest that said characters or their players are young, boyish and conventionally attractive gay men, which is what the term means in gay subculture.
  • The designers of the Dungeons & Dragons setting PlaneScape decided to create a weird-sounding jargon, probably to make the setting seem more "alien." Aside from making the sourcebooks hard to read, this might have worked — if they'd created one instead of just appropriating words from Victorian thieves' cant ... many examples of which are still as harsh in British slang today as they were in the 1900s.

  • The Transformers character Spastic has sparked this in the UK; while in America, the term "spastic" refers to being aloof and clumsy, in the UK it is an offensive term for those with cerebral palsy.

    Video Games 
  • The reaction to the Resident Evil 5 trailer. A few people in the US found the depiction of Africans to hearken back to the more openly racist days when depictions of Africans and African-Americans as animalistic and barely human were rather common and accepted. Most importantly, they found the concept of a white American male shooting shambling, black Africans more than a bit distasteful.
    • Matters weren't improved much when, after adding black female sidekick character Sheva to the game as an attempted Author's Saving Throw, Capcom inexplicably gave her an unlockable alternate costume which dressed her in a leopard skin Fur Bikini, war paint and a necklace of bones, and the full game itself also included a level set in a primitive native village where the heroes were assaulted by black zombies wearing grass skirts and throwing spears! Bob Chipman tore an absolute strip off them in one of his earliest videos after having previously given them the benefit of the doubt in response to the original trailer controversy.
  • Another one in the "amusement, not offence" category: the online RPG Asda Story, of banner ad fame, is liable to elicit giggles from UK residents. Especially if they've just returned from doing their shopping at Asda.
  • Pokémon:
    • The canon has the debacle over Jynx, whose skin color was eventually modified as a result.
    • Lenora from Pokémon Black and White is a black woman who wears an apron. It's supposed to be both because she's an archaeologist—it keeps her clothes from getting dirty and possibly is a place to put stuff—and to signify she's motherly. In America it comes off as referring to Mammy stereotypes, especially considering she has curly hair and is a Big Beautiful Woman. Her official art and anime appearances were changed to have the apron off (in the game art she drapes it over her shoulder like a Badass Cape) but her game sprite is unchanged even in the sequels. In Pokémon Adventures she's depicted without it which may be due to the controversy.
  • The Let's Play of Pokémon Quartz said the Mole People were supposed to be a compendium of negative Jew stereotypes. While the joke's funny and all, it's unlikely a Spanish teen would know that much about Jews to the point of doing a Take That!: Spain doesn't really have much of a Jewish population, as they were kicked out of the country over 500 years ago and (obviously) they don't want to come back.
  • In the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG, Bowser's victory pose is a Bicep-Polishing Gesture. However, western audiences weren't familiar with the gesture, and to them, it looked like slap-the-crook-of-your-elbow, which has roughly the same meaning as Flipping the Bird. His victory pose was changed to a double fist clench in the USA and PAL versions of the game.
    • A near identical kerfuffle happened again within the same franchise just over twenty years later: In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the female Inkling would make this same gesture whenever she hit someone with an item. This was patched out in the game's first patch. (Now the Inkling simply fist-pumps.)
  • Rumble Roses XX has something called "Queens Mode", where the wrestler who lost the match have to suffer a penalty. For example, having to sweep around a pool with a push broom. And she reacts to it by getting angry or being embarrassed and blushing, or something. This is considered a kind of erotica in Japan. Western audiences considered it so incredibly weird and creepy that it contributed to Rumble Roses XX's status as a Franchise Killer.
  • The Nintendo Game Festers' Quest was released more than two decades after The Addams Family was off the air. It was also about three years before the big movie revival. American kids may not have recognized him or the name Uncle Fester, especially since the Addams' Family connection was mentioned nowhere on the box and at the time reruns of the show were rare. In the U.K, while they may have been marginally familiar with The Addams Family. However "Uncle Fester" (or just "Fester" for short) is also widely known in the UK as rhyming cockney slang for "child molester". Without the proper context, put the word "Fester" together with "Quest", along with the character's leering expression on the cover and see what happens.
  • Xenoblade's Metal Face had his name changed in the American release from the original: Black Face
  • Barret Wallace, the Scary Black Man from Final Fantasy VII, is often held up as an example of Unfortunate Implications, if not outright Ethnic Scrappy, by American players. He's not treated disrespectfully compared to the other characters and the comic relief idiot of some players' memories is a Dead Unicorn Trope, but he was based on imported, racist stereotypes about African-Americans, all of which read as neutral character quirks in Japan but got extremely painful when sent back across the ocean. When asked about this in an interview, Kazushige Nojima claimed he didn't really understand the issues when he wrote the character initially, but listened to the criticisms, and tried to do better next time (Kiros from Final Fantasy VIII is notably less stereotypical). Tetsuya Nomura claimed it was all the translators' fault. (He may have had at least half a point).
  • An In-Universe example can be seen with Viconia, the drow cleric of Shar from Baldur's Gate. On the surface, Shar is the goddess of Dark Is Evil, dedicated to spreading darkness across the world and snuffing out the light. Viconia, being a member of a subterranean race that suffers considerable pain from bright light, sees her as a goddess of The Sacred Darkness. Mind you, she's also misunderstanding some of Shar's core tenets; she views Shar as a goddess to help one deal with grief and solace - very attractive to a person who has been irrevocably outcast from all she ever knew and who will never have a place on the surface. The reality is that Shar's core doctrine is to snuff out happiness and joy. This isn't helped by the fact that Viconia is still evil and thinks it's normal for everyone to be so.
  • Fate/Grand Order ran into this with the character of Emiya Alter, an "evil" version of Emiya who has very dark skin. Officially, the reasoning behind his skin color is that he over-used his magic which darkened his skin (regular Emiya has this too, though to a much lesser extent: he merely looks tanned). However, an "evil" version of the character also having black skin rubbed a lot of Western fans the wrong way. When he was released in North America, his artwork was altered so that he has the same skin tone as regular Emiya.
    • Related to this, an In-Series Nickname given to the character was Demiya, which stands for Detroit Emiyanote . In order to avoid the Unfortunate Implications such a name would have in the West, the NA version changed it to Edgemiya, or "Edgy Emiya", lampshading the Darker and Edgier nature of the character.

    Web Comics 
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent is a Finnish webcomic written in English. At some point, it had a gag in which the cast Know-Nothing Know-It-All identifies Chinese writing as "Ching-Chong" due to not knowing the correct name, which the author considered to be a light-hearted joke. In America, "Ching-Chong" is an extremely crude slur for Chinese people. The reactions from some American readers of the comic were bad enough that the page's comment section had to be shut down and the "Ching-Chong" replaced by "Kung Fu".

    Web Original 
  • Random Assault: Tony is from the UK and they got Irishman Mark Breen the same episode which led to geopolitical escalations.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" created a bit of a stir. In North America (where the cartoon was made) the word "cider" generally refers to the raw, unfiltered, spiced apple juice produced by a cider press. In Europe, "cider" always refers to the beverage made from fermenting this juice - which North Americans would call "hard cider" or "alcoholic cider". This makes the episode quite amusing for European viewers, as the fact that the entire town is willing to stand in line for hours at a cider stand makes the entire cast look like drunks. Considering some of the ponies' reactions upon drinking said cider (or not getting to drink it), the creators were likely very aware of the implications.
      • Incidentally, cheap, low-quality and scarily strong hard cider that tastes at least as foul as what Flim and Flam were getting out of their machine at the end is the traditional English equivalent of malt liquor. Cue numerous jokes from British Bronies about how they missed a trick by not selling the stuff at three litres a bit to hobos and juvenile delinquents.
    • In-Universe, there's one of these in "Bridle Gossip", where Zecora's pawing at the ground (something real zebras do to search for water) is mistaken by the ponies as a threat display (which it is for them, as it is for real horses).
  • One episode of Mighty Max had a plotline involving giant hostile insects, and featured Max complaining about "these buggers"; it's not clear whether this was a deliberate attempt at Getting Crap Past the Radar, a Shout-Out to Ender's Game or genuine ignorance, but it created a bit of a problem when the episode aired in Britain... without anyone having thought to watch it all the way through first. Oops.
  • The whole "bender" thing in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is a bit unfortunate for British viewers. In Britain 'bender' has a number of colloquial definitions, all of them boiling down to being an insulting reference to sexual deviancy. In the show, it's easy enough to ignore the double-meaning of the word when it is embedded within words like 'waterbender' and 'firebender'. But the word 'bender' also gets thrown about a lot in the show free of prefixes. It might be less of a problem if the word was a very adult-use one that would go straight over children's heads, given the show's audience. But 'bender' is exactly the sort of immature, playground insult that children would likely already know by the time they watched the show. Presumably, this is the main reason the original show was renamed Avatar: The Legend Of Aang for the European market.
  • Similarly, Bender's name in Futurama has been known to cause giggles, particularly where the context of its usage has been a little ambiguous. But given the nature of the show's humour, and particularly the nature of the character so named, the ambiguity is far less unfortunate than Avatar. In fact, this (presumably unintended) spin on Bender's name seems to work well within the tone of the show.
    • In the original American context: Bender's name is, in addition to his (intended) job description, a reference to the phrase "going on a bender", meaning "getting really shit-face drunk (probably while in the middle of a bar/pub-crawl)", which is fitting considering how much alcohol he consumes.
    • In Russia, however, it has a positive accidental meaning, inverting the trope. "Bender" is associated in Russia with Ostap Bender, the roguish anti-hero of The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf, with whom Bender the robot has quite a few things in common.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk has similar problems to Avatar: The Last Airbender as though having Hiccup's home called Berk can pass by less noticed in the film How to Train Your Dragon having it in your show title causes some amusement to anyone from the UK as 'berk' is a term that basically means 'idiot' or 'jerk'. In fact, it comes from Cockney rhyming slang, as it is short for Berkshire Hunt. Now...what much more rude word does the word "hunt" rhyme with? In this case, it's likely the creators knew exactly the connotations of the word when they first picked it; it's just what passes the radar in the US goes more noticed in the UK.

  • And then there is the story of the German tourist who had problems with his name in the US. His name was "Heiniger", which is pronounced like "Hi n...".

    Real Life 
  • A zoo in Germany was so honored that President Obama visited their town they named an animal after him - a monkey.
  • In Japanese Sign Language, the syllable "se" is indicated by a single raised middle finger. Pointed toward the signer in this case, but still.
  • There are two state lotteries in Chile - the oldest and largest is the Polla Chilena de Beneficencia note . Originally, the word "polla" meant "betting pool", a meaning that's still in use in most of Spanish-speaking Latin America... but in Spain, it's slang for "penis". Invariably, Spaniards visiting Chile are amused by this particular lottery and some of its advertising: "Juegue con la polla y sea feliz." ("Play with the lottery and be happy."), "Hágase millonario con la Polla." ("Become a millionaire with the lottery), etcetera. This isn't a terribly uncommon occurrence: a lot of words with innocent meanings in Latin America carry vulgar meanings in Spain.
    • It happens the other way round too: the word coger, which is a really common word in European Spanish, and means "to hold", "to take" or "to pick up", depending on the context, means "to fuck" in Latin America. As yet another example, concha is slang for a vagina in some dialects, while in Spain, it means "shell"... and it's also a female name.
  • There's an anecdote about a Japanese celebrity who had an unexpectedly bitter dish while in the US. Upon taking a bite, he exclaimed niga, meaning "(this is) bitter" in Japanese, and caused a quite a bit of tension in the restaurant. Russell Peters also tells the story of an African woman standing in line in a Chinese shop only to hear a child say behind her, "niga, niga, niga, niga...". Peters had to step in to explain to her that the word in question, "nàgè" (literally, that thing), is the Mandarin equivalent of valley girl's "like". "Niga" and "Naega" also translate to "you" and "I" in Korean so they end up being used a lot in Korean Pop Music, to the point where BTS's RM changed the lyrics to "Fake Love" in order to minimize their usage when the group performed it in concerts in the US to avoid a kerfluffle from happening.
  • In Brazil, the deer goes beyond Bambification and is considered a homosexual animal, so things like the Milwaukee Bucks or Harry Potter's Patronus can become severe Narm to dirtier minds.
  • In certain parts of the United States, mostly New England, a liquor store is commonly called a "Packie" (short for "package store") which can cause misunderstandings for British English speakers since it's a homophone for an extremely offensive term for a South Asian individual. Of the type who in Britain stereotypically own small stores, making misunderstandings even more likely.
  • There was a row when American people discovered a Blitz Evacuee fancy-dress costume on a British website and thought it was meant to be a Jewish child being sent to a death camp by the Nazis.
    • Not that this was exactly free of controversy in its home country, with many people considering it to be in questionable taste.
  • The German baby food company Gerber once tried to enter the African market. In Africa many food companies put pictures of the packaging's content on the packaging, eg. a can of chicken meat has a picture of a chicken, because of high illiteracy rates. Unfortunately, Gerber food had a picture of a baby on its packaging, thus making the jars look like they contained human meat.
  • If you're a student of the German language, the name "Immanuel Kant" is unintentionally funny/vulgar. Most English speakers would assume that the pronunciation of the 18th-century philosopher's surname is the same as the British or Northeastern American pronunciation of "can't." But because in German vowels are pronounced very short when they occur in the middle of a syllable between two consonants, the correct pronunciation of "Kant" actually sounds more like the English vulgar slang term for a woman's private parts. (Of course, English itself has words that might cause this problem, such as "continue", but in that particular case the first four letters don't stand alone - and the syllable break is after the "n" anyway.)
  • A shop display featuring a clarification that outfits depicted are not meant to resemble members of the Ku Klux Klan can be found here. Thanks for the clarification.
  • In Brazil (and, of all places, the Canadian province of Quebec), Durex is a brand of tape - in fact, shorthand for adhesive tape akin to Scotch Tape. In North America, it is a brand of condoms. Travellers be warned.
  • In the US, Oberlin College banned sushi from the dining room, due to protests labeling it as cultural appropriation. Wonder what they would think visiting any self-service restaurant in Brazil, where the local cuisine is found alongside "ethnic" food (sushi, kibbe) and imported dishes (spaghetti, strogonoff).
  • There several inoffensive words in Portugal that actually are offensive words in Brazilian Portuguese. For instance, "rapariga" in the European Portuguese just means young lady, while in Brazil it means whore. Another example is the word "bicha", in Portugal it means a line of people; in Brazil, it is a derogatory term for a homosexual man, similar to faggot.
  • Likewise there is the word "fanny": in the US an inoffensive term for the buttocks, in the UK it is the vagina.
  • Be aware of where you are or who you're talking to when you use "小姐" (xiáojiě) to address a young Chinese woman. In Taiwan, the term is the normal polite address for someone you don't know; in Mainland China, the term is specifically reserved for prostitutes.
  • In the 2019 NBA finals, the Toronto Raptors, as the first Canadian team to play in the NBA finals, had to explain to their hometown fans that it is not customary for basketball fans to cheer an opposing player's injury.
  • During the production of Rocky and His Friends, the Mexican studio that was handling the animation sent an episode of Peabody's Improbable History to a local film processing lab twice and never received a completed print. This was because it was marked with the production code P-2, which is pronounced in Spanish as "Peh-Dos", which sounds just like "pedos", the Spanish word for "farts". Apparently, nobody at the lab wanted to touch it.

    Bite The Wax Tadpole 
Cases where the translation or logo could have caused offense:
  • The Mitsubishi Pajero, although named after an Argentinian mountain range, had to be renamed "Montero" in certain countries, as in some dialects of Spanish, this makes it the "Mitsubishi Wanker."
  • The Toyota MR-2 had to be renamed in France since "MR-2" in French is pronounced exactly the same way as "est merdeux", in other words "(It) is shitty". It's for exactly the same reason that French-speaking people in the UK are highly amused when they find out there's a popular soap opera entitled Emmerdale.
  • Umbro and Siemens have both had to apologize after releasing products called Zyklon - it is the German word for cyclone, but also almost the name of Zyklon B, the poison gas used by the Nazis in the Holocaust, and unsurprisingly, the Germans and Jewish groups are somewhat touchy about this. Also an amusement park in Tipton, Pennsylvania used to have a roller coaster called Zyklon.
  • IKEA:
    • The Gutvik bed was named after a town in Sweden, but German speakers were somewhat amused. ("Gut Fick" is German for "good fuck". That it was a children's bed made this all the more unfortunate.)
    • The storage box Knep (meaning 'trick' in Swedish) caused quite a few giggles in neighboring Denmark since the name literally means 'fuck' in Danish. This is one of many jokes that hinge on the differences between Swedish and Danish, which are so close together that we can't decide whether they go in In My Language, That Sounds Like... or Separated by a Common Language.
    • A bin full of "Trampa" ("crap" in Portuguese, "tread" in Swedish) doormats were spotted in an IKEA store. Said doormats were even brown. Whether they are still being sold remains unknown, though.
    • The "Skanka" pot set was always a source of amusement. Goes well with "Trampa", really.
    • Religious English-speakers occasionally complain about IKEA's marshmallow sheep, called 'Godisskum' (particularly since sheep are associated with Christianity).
    • The bundles of wood sticks called "Faggots" were also in stock in IKEA's stores for some time. Granted, the word may be an archaic term for said wood sticks, but by modern standards...
  • Woolworths put a children's bunk-bed for sale on their website under the name Lolita and seemed genuinely baffled that people didn't take it well. Between that and Zyklon, you'd think someone would at least run the names through Google. On that note, Reebok named a running shoe for women "Incubus".
  • The name of the Nintendo Wii caused a certain amount of amusement in the English-speaking world when it was first announced, but has since been accepted by the public. It remains a viable vein of comedy gold, as 2008's April Fool's Day products at proved. Specifically, the Super Pii Pii Brothers game.
  • When Titanic (1997) was released, there was a good deal of snickering in Lebanon as the title, in its English pronunciation, sounds awfully close to "Come, let's fuck!" in the local dialect.
  • Coon Cheese was named for the family that founded (and still owns) the company. They can trace their name back further than any racist usage. The true meaning of the word coon, as opposed to the racial slur, is short for raccoon. Thus, if you read any stories by Clifford Simak about coons or coon hunting, be advised he's referring to raccoons. The Maine Coon is also a breed of cat.
  • The Honda Fit was renamed Honda Jazz in Scandinavia since most respectable citizens might not be too thrilled to be driving around in a car almost called the "Honda Cunt". And that's not to mention the extreme amount of other naughty Norwegian terms can be found around the web, if one tried: Dr. Rumpe ("Butt"), Drita ("Shitted", also meaning "drunk"), Albanian Folk Music, Hassis Kukemelk ("cock milk"), Lior Narkis the Bilingual Bonus Guy ("Narkis" is Norwegian slang for "druggie") and Alkis Travels ("Alcoholic").
  • The Chevrolet Nova was the butt of (good-natured) jokes in Spanish speaking countries, because "nova" can be easily transformed into "no va" ("doesn't go" or "doesn't work"). In the USA, this was exaggerated and became an urban legend about the car having had terrible sales in Latin America, even though this wasn't the case. (Spanish-speakers are no more likely to misread "nova" as "no va" than English-speakers are to misread "therapist" as "the rapist".)
  • There is a light bulb manufacturer named Osram, which unfortunately means "I will shit [on something]" in Polish.
  • As noted on the Bite the Wax Tadpole page, a German company released an MP3 player called the "i.Beat," in a range of colors with Xtreme Kool Letterz. The black one was labeled "Blaxx," making the full name "i.Beat Blaxx." This naturally caused a stir among American observers over the possible racial connotations of the name.
  • English dialect case: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." Though this bit of Double Entendre was intentional.
  • The American Sci-Fi Channel changed their name to Syfy, which in Polish slang is a colloquialism for syphilis and is also used as a derogatory indicator of extremely low quality, an equivalent to English 'crap'. Something not at all lost on Americans who dislike the change, some of whom have taken to calling it the "Syphilis Channel".
  • The webpages of a woman named Ziva Kunda were popular amongst Czech and Slovak teenagers, as her name translates to "a living cunt".
  • In Ukraine there was a beverage that was advertised as 'Blue Water' in English without any further translation, this, however, sounds very much like 'Blevota' which means Puke. Everyone couldn't stop laughing over signs and advertisements telling you to "Drink refreshing puke!" The company soon changed its labels to 'Water Blue'.
  • In Brazil, the Ford Pinto was never released, as the name is based on a horse (like "Maverick" and a local model, "Corcel" - stallion) but means "chick" in Portuguese - as in young chicken, and like "cock" in English, has a sexual connotation. Not that safety concerns weren't also at hand.
  • In Brazil, the local Volkswagen was developing a car named Tupi (after one of the native tribes of the country), but the codename was changed to Fox before it was released and exported, leading English-speaking countries to reject a car pronounced "to pee".
  • The Philippines:
    • "Suka" is used commonly by Filipino speakers in their native language to mean two things: 1) vinegar (by putting stress on the first syllable) and 2) vomit (by putting stress on the second syllable). Woe betide to any Filipino who travels to Slavic-speaking countries like Russia and Ukraine and use the same word there as it literally means "bitch" in their tongue. Regarding the origins of that word, they're more than likely to get shot if they're around those kinds of people.
    • The word "Puto" (pronounced poo-TOH) is a type of sweet rice cake in the Philippines, whereas in Spanish it means "Male Prostitute" (female being "Puta").
    • Another unfortunate word is the Filipino term "Aswang" (Demon(ic Creature) in English). Normally not a problem, but one pronouncing that word improperly could accidentally say a combination of "butt" and "male genitalia". (Filipino Protip: If it's not a borrowed word, there is no such thing as a long vowel in Filipino.)
  • Already in 1995 the German state outlaws the FAP, a rightwing extremist party. "Sexy Losers" (and thus the Internet use of "fap") starts only 1999. Aaaaw, there go so many puns... A similar case happens with the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa), though slightly mitigated by the fact that people just call it by "the Air Force".
  • People in Greece will start snickering at any foreign woman visiting their country who's named Andrea, because the original meaning of that name comes from the Greek root of "man". Ironic, isn't it? For that matter, it is also a name for males in Italy and Albania, and a foreign woman with that name visiting either country will get the same sniggering response.
  • Russian and Ukrainian women named Orina, which although means "peace" in their languages, will later discover that their name doesn't bode well when traveling to Spain or any Latin American country as well as Spanish-speaking regions of the United States like southern Florida, California and the American Southwest, since the name literally means "urine" in Spanish.
  • In Dutch "een poes" is a female cat. South-Africans are amused by this because in Afrikaans the word means "vagina". Literally translated in English it would mean "a puss", so there it can go either way.
  • The Indian automotive company Tata Motors would strike a nerve to any of the more dirtier minds of English speakers since "Tata" is a ribald euphemism for "boobs".
  • Troy was released under its English title in Italy because the Italian translation (Troia) also means "Whore".
  • Very early Airfix figure sets dating from the 1950s are still in circulation, even though the figures are wooden, crude and blobby and the original moulds have passed through several owners and have not been improved by sixty or seventy years of continual use. They are now marketed by a firm based in Spain called Barcelona Universale Modeles and can very correctly be described, in every way, as BUM models. The BUM logo appears, proudly displayed, on every box.
  • A Turkish gas station chain named PO (short for Petrol Ofisi) has caused unintentional hilarity amongst German-speaking tourists because "Po" literally means "butt" (as in, anus) in German. The company's official logo (featuring a wolf inside the "O" sticking out its tongue) unfortunately doesn't help.

Alternative Title(s): Cross Cultural Kerfuffle


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