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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 a sort of cousin to Harsher in Hindsight 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 in 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, it is primarily recognized as the symbol of Nazism. See Non-Nazi Swastika for more on that.

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

See also: Bite the Wax Tadpole (for advertising examples), Culture Clash, Fee Fi Faux Pas, Accidental Proposal, Accidental Marriage, Fumbling the Gauntlet, Harsher in Hindsight, Values Dissonance, Deliberate Values Dissonance, V-Sign, In My Language, That Sounds Like..., and Did Not Do the Bloody Research. 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.
    • Other examples in this series include the use of the colour Red in China (meaning good fortune) compared to the West (Danger or hazard), and the Chinese gesture for "come here" being identical to the Western gesture for "go away".
  • This Japanese mobile phone ad depicts an Obama rally with red 'Change' signs and the company's mascot, a monkey, on the podium.
    • 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. The man who was ultimately responsible for the campaign, Scott Morrison, ended up getting fired from the Tourism Australia director role, before running for Parliament, knifing his opponent in the party pre-selection (primary) ballot via a dirty tricks campaign and eventual become the 30th Prime Minister of Australia, in 2018.
  • 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 
  • Manga and anime run into problems with swastika all the time. This is because Japan adheres to Non-Nazi Swastika; the swastika (known as manji in Japan) is still considered a lucky symbol and never got stigmatized as it did in the West, since barring a very small minority of bigoted nationalists Nazism is never an issue in Japan, despite Japan's previous alliance with Nazi Germany (the country does have its own issues with ultranationalism and controversial symbols, but they don't involve Nazism or swastika). In particular, swastika is associated with Buddhism; maps in Japan use the symbol to mark Buddhist temples.
    • Naruto: In the manga, the Hyuga branch line curse mark is a manji. The anime changed it to an "x" to avoid the Nazi connection. However the English manga kept it a manji.
    • Blade of the Immortal: A manji was an issues being 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).
    • 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.
    • 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. In fact, the "ban" part of bankai means swastika; "bankai" in Japanese is written as 卍解.
    • YuYu Hakusho had a minor Bare-Fisted Monk character (in the first Tournament Arc, where Genkai was looking for an apprentice) with a manji tattooed on his forehead; he was also shaved bald in typical Buddhist monk fashion, which could be misconstrued as being a skinhead. The English-language release included a Note from Ed. in the margins noting that it had nothing to do with the Nazis.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Similarly to Jynx from Pokémon, Mr. Popo is often pointed at as a racist character, being a tubby fellow in Arabic clothing with inky black skin and large lips 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.
    • In the Garlic Jr. filler arc, the Quirky Miniboss Squad is named after various condiments: Gasshu (sugar), Zaldo (salt), Binega (vinegar), and... Tard. Needless to say, he got a Dub Name Change. Dragon Ball Z Abridged had a good time with this.
    "Like "mustard"! Come on, guys! Please don't make a big deal out of this! It's cultural, okay?"
  • 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".
  • Heavy Object has a minor character named Putana Highball. Presumably she's named after a Hindu demonness, but unfortunately in Italian putana means prostitute.

    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 Heiliggruppe 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 Heiliggruppe 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."

  • Anchor Foal: Fleur dis Lee's apparent origins in Protocera, the griffon nation, by its dominance-focused nature having caused prominent kerfluffles elsewhere:
    • It implies she's had such negative interactions with Equestrian ponies.
    • In chapter 20, she makes the mistake of offering some of her Protoceran Pony Cuisine to a pegasus customer whilst trying to be friendly. She's morbidly impressed at the result: she didn't know it was possible for a pegasus to simultaneously fly and projectile vomit.
  • Contact at Kobol: Aside from such obvious issues of the Tau'ri perceiving the Lords of Kobol as just more Goa'uld, there are lesser problems. A particular example of this is that, by uncanny coincidence, a famous military figure in the Colonies has a personal sigil that looks almost exactly like the swastika.
  • Displaced (The Legend of Zelda): The Gorons nearly start a war by referring to Gerudo as "tall Hylians," and then make it worse by respectfully calling them "brother." Zelda explains to the Gorons that Gerudo are an entirely different culture to Hylians, and she explains to the Gerudo that Gorons don't have a concept of gender.
    Goron: We don't have a what now?
  • A Moon and World Apart: As in canon, this is described in chapter 11 as one of the reasons the citizens of Ponyville are scared of Zecora — her pawing at the ground was taken as a sign of aggression, when it was really her way of looking for water. Sunset, who's more familiar with zebra behavior, explains this as soon as she's told about it, leaving Applejack and co. feeling rather embarrassed over the misunderstanding.
  • Triptych Continuum: In "Naked Lunch", Gerald Gristle nearly starts violent riots throughout Canterlot because he opens a butcher's shop, something that would be fine in his homeland of Protocera, but which drives the herbivorous ponies of Equestria mad with terror.
  • Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse: Ranma and his companions have no understanding of the subtler aspects of pirate culture in the Grand Blue, leading to them neglecting such essentials as giving themselves a crew name and a Jolly Roger before beginning their pirate career. This leads to them being saddled with the Atrocious Alias of "The Dirty Coward Pirates", which goads them into finally trying to make a decision and rebrand themselves... as the Kamikaze Pirates.
    • The fact that the name "Kamikaze Pirates" itself falls into this is openly lampshaded. It was suggested by Kodachi Kuno, whose very traditionalist (if slightly eccentric) upbringing means she associates it with the pre-World War II meaning of "Divine Wind", and thus she considers it to symbolize the strength, ferocity and courage of herself and her crewmates, who at this point have been Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond. Nabiki, being more familiar with modern attitudes, brings up that the term has instead come to mean "suicidal". The rest of the crew debates it for a little while before deciding to run with it, because a) they can't come up with a better name, and b) they're Japanese, so the old meaning has more resonance with them. Nabiki privately observes to herself that both meanings are valid interpretations when it comes to them.
  • Manehattan's Lone Guardian has one involving a pony whose name is Maverick, which makes Leviathan inwardly wince when she hears it: the pony in question earned the name because she went a long time before earning her Cutie Mark, whereas those in Neo Arcadia with that moniker were hunted down and killed.
  • Flat Dreams plays it for Black Comedy; in Dimension 47, it's normal for women (or at least women of Pyronica's species) to eat their mates, especially after falling pregnant. Unfortunately for Pryonica, her mom was a dimension-traveler who didn't think that maybe this wasn't a multiversial rule, so when she ate Pyronica's dad, she was sentenced to jail, resulting in Pyronica being literally born in prison.

  • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan sparked a lot of amused reactions from Filipino speakers since the title character's name sounds rather close to the Tagalog word "burat", which means "penis."
    • In-universe, the titular protagonist's uncouth mannerisms portrayed in the movie, while relatively normal in his home country of Kazakhstan, don't bode well when traveling to the United States as shown when he takes a tourist trip to various locations around the country, making him look like a perverted weirdo towards Americans.
  • The Swedish word for "The End" is "Slut" (pronounced "sloot"). 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. This caused a bit of Memetic Mutation with Finding Dory when somebody posted the Swedish ending on Twitter.
  • When The Last Airbender, was released in the UK, British cinemagoers found the repeated use of the word "bender" unintentionally funny. (As with Star Wars (see below), the word "bender" is slang in the UK for homosexual men.)
  • Star Wars features the unfortunately named Jedi Master Yarael Poof. (For the uninitiated, "poof" is British slang for homosexual.)
    • Likewise, in the Brazilian Portuguese release, Count Dooku and Master Sifo Dias were renamed "count Dookan" and "Saifo Dias" because in portuguese their names are identical to "Count of the Butthole" and "Master Fucked Himself".
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The way that Miranda Richardson pronounced her character Rita Skeeter's name (Rita Skita) reportedly sounded awfully close to an Icelandic slang term for defecation, leading to many patrons purportedly snickering when they first saw the movie in theaters.
  • 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 Ten Commandments (1956): The Egyptian taskmaster who gets killed by Moses in the first half of the movie is named Baka (in Japanese, "baka" means "fool" or "idiot").
  • 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.

  • 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. Though some would argue that is no less manly, possibly even more so.
  • 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 (and even then, only jutsified by the fact that they're in a dangerous job, and getting the other's attention with his full name would take too long).
  • Dune:
    • 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 when 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.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • A minor, comical example: 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. note 
    • 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.
    • Discussed in And Another Thing: one culture's "This pasta is fantastica!" is another's "Your mother plays it fast and loose with sailors."
  • In The General Series, 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 Nine Goblins, one of these starts a war with the goblins. After being pushed to the edge of lands they could relocate to avoid humans, they send a diplomatic delegation to demand territory. The humans don't see coup-counters, elaborate paintings describing clan history, and lean dangerous battle steeds. They see bones caught in the hair of mud-covered goblins riding bony pigs. The negotiations do NOT go well.
  • Thornhedge: Halim initially fears that Toadling's name is "unkind". However, Toadling was Happily Adopted by the Greenteeth, for whom it's a perfectly respectable name, so Halim quickly gets over it.
  • War and Peace's name, directly translated into French, is "Guerre et Paix", which is accurate but also a homonym for "not very thick" (guère épais). Oh the irony.
  • WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? didn't sell well in Russia and other Slavic-speaking countries, since its Japanese title in its suffix, Sukasuka, 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. Also, in some Italian dialects Sukasuka sounds like "suck it, suck it".

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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".
    • 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 
  • 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 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).
  • The 1982 BBC adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor featured fairy disguises that looked remarkably like Ku Klux Klan costumes.
  • 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.)
  • In early seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, characters (most often Sabrina) would sing the in-universe hit "Funky Song" to themselves. The lyrics go: 'Shake your whammy fanny, funky song, funky song, shake your whammy fanny, fu-u-unky 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Destiny", O'Brien is assigned to work with a female Cardassian scientist who keeps arguing with and belittling him. It's not until a later scene that he learns that she was flirting with him, and that she took his responses as him flirting back. O'Brien has a Flat "What" moment and has to explain to her that he's already Happily Married.
  • Invoked in Star Trek: Voyager as part of the reason the holographic Doctor never chose a name for himself, as he couldn't find a name that meant something good in all languages; as an example, he notes that "Frederick" bears a resemblance to an impolite term on the Bolian homeworld, while the Vulcan name "Sural" was also the name of a brutal dictator on Sakura Prime.
  • 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. That's not even remotely accurate, but the joke wouldn't work otherwise.

  • 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".
    • Similarly, in the other direction, some audience members at early U2 shows in the U.S. would shout out pro-IRA slogans and throw money on the stage, unaware— or unconcerned— that the band is from the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland.note 
  • 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 of jazz-handing blackface performers. Director Julien Temple was trying to make a point about certain conservative politicians and judges who'd promoted and enacted anti-LGBT policies despite their own LGBT statuses being open secrets. However, that was completely lost on the US audience, for whom blackface is a shameful reminder of minstrel shows and other practices now past; a second version was made for MTV.
  • Similarly to Culture Club's dilemma, the video for Dutch Synth-Pop artist Taco's "Puttin' on the Ritz" depicted blackface performers miming to the line "super duper" and tap-dancing as part of its parody of early 20th century America. A censored version was quickly put together for the US market, replacing the "super duper" singers with a photo of Gary Cooper and cropping out the upper halves of the tap dancers (though a few background blackface performers are still visible in a slow-motion shot).
  • The album cover of the eponymous first album from System of a Down depicts a hand flashing with all five fingers extended out with the palm facing the person. This is considered an offensive gesture in Greece since to them, it is known as the Mountza. The band themselves justifies the artwork of the album cover as being inspired by a 1928 anti-fascist poster designed by visual artist John Heartfield for the Communist Party of Germany.
  • The Title Track for Kate Bush's The Dreaming was originally titled "The Abo Song", tying in with its lyrics about the plight of Aboriginal Australians, and promotional singles with this title were sent out to radio stations. However, shortly after the discs were sent out, she and EMI had to hastily recall them and rename the song upon learning that "Abo" is actually a racial slur in Australia. The final title, featured on all commercial releases of the single and album, instead comes from a concept in Aboriginal Australian mythology.
  • For the 2012 European Championship, an original Cantonese theme song was written in Hong Kong to promote it. The problem is its music video has extremely militant imagery and lyricsnote , and the melody is based on a Soviet Red Army march. Oh, and Euro 2012 was held in Poland and Ukraine.
  • In the USA, the word "spaz" or "spaz out" is a fairly inoffensive term for "clumsy" or "anxious". In British English, however, the word "spastic" or "spaz" is an extremely offensive slur for physically- or learning-disabled people. In 2022, both Beyoncé (with "Heated") and Lizzo'' (with "Grrrls") got into trouble in the UK for using "spaz" in songs, and rerecorded them with a replacement word.

    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 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 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 British meaning is taken into account. (It's worth mentioning, however, that the term Fan Wank was coined by a Brit, who knew exactly what he was doing.)

    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.

  • Transformers:
    • The 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.
    • Beast Wars introduced the word "slag" (referring to the crud that floats to the surface of liquid metal during refinement) as a fictional G-rated swear word for decades, until someone in the UK finally pointed out that has a more common, moderately offensive definition there - a woman of loose morals. As such, the word doesn't see much use in cartoons aimed at younger audiences and has more or less been taken over by "scrap", which was actually introduced in the original series.

    Video Games 
  • The Nintendo Game Fester's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Doki Doki Literature Club!, many a Japanese Let's Player, reactor, VTuber, or commentator will tend to laugh at how Sayori's room has an air conditioner type that's much smaller than what it's supposed to be, due to the background artist not properly scaling the appliance in accordance to the room. In contrast, "local" players of the game won't even notice it.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage! has the infamous Banned Episode regarding its web anime series Petit SEKAI in which the punchline for a particular gag ends with Leo/need dressing up in "tribal" outfits while wearing dark makeup with bright lipstick. The joke is meant to be a play on a stereotypical ganguro appearance from Gyaru Girl subculture, but for American fans it accidentally came off looking like Blackface. Public outcry on the internet eventually got the episode removed and replaced with a censored version that tweaked the outfits and removed the dark makeup to make it less offensive for Western fans.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, the name of the girl who confessed to Hisao, Iwanako (岩魚子), is an obviously made-up first name by non-Japanese speakers that doesn't exist as a name you'd normally give to children in Japan, to say the least. It literally means "Rock Fish Child", which makes sense if you realize it was translated into Japanese after it was conjured up with English letters. To English speakers, the name works because they don't know better. Though it gets lampshaded by Kenji once, when he says to Hisao "This rock-fish-child chick is totally into you".
  • Paper Mario has, as a major character, a Star Kid named Twink. This is transparently short for "Twinkle" (because he is a star), but it didn't stop native English speakers from finding the name hilarious once the word became a part of gay culture.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Pokémon Jynx was designed as a mix between a yeti and a Gyaru Girl, featuring saucerlike eyes and large pink lips against a pitch-black head. While the design didn't raise any eyebrows in Japan, in the US it provoked an outcry from black scholars due to it resembling blackface. The international release of Pokémon Gold and Silver recolored Jynx's face to purple as a result, and the redesign was carried over to the Japanese games too starting with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, with re-releases of the Gen I and II games being altered accordingly in all regions.
    • 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.
  • 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!note  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.
    • These issues are the reason why Far Cry 2 managed to get around such controversy by putting in a greater number of white Caucasian mooks for the player character to kill instead of black mooks (though there are no shortages of hostile black people you can encounter in the game and one of the playable characters you get to choose at the start of the game is black) despite the game actually taking place in a fictional nondescript location in Africa; the game developers justifying this by stating that these mooks are foreign mercenaries for hire.
  • 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.
  • Stellaris: Happens In-Universe, and is an Invoked Trope to boot. If an empire sends a diplomatic envoy to another empire to improve their diplomatic relations, said diplomatic envoy may have their Translator Microbes hacked so that, instead of uttering the magnanimous platitudes expected of a diplomatic envoy, they slung xeno-slurs to the rulers. The insulted empire can either take it with good humor (resulting in improved diplomatic relations for a short while as well as a temporary happiness increase as the people laugh at the unintentional comedy fodder), or demand an apology (for an Influence gain and temporarily harmed relations.)
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 features a prominent villain called Black Face in the Japanese version. Because that combination of words is normally associated with a racist costuming practice in the US, the English localization renames him Metal Face
  • The intro/attract sequence from Samurai Shodown II goes like this: "Long, long ago, there were a man who try to make his skill ultimate. Because of his bloody life, it's no accident that he was involved in the troubles." (Ok, that series in general tends to be an Anachronism Stew, but even so, that particular anachronism probably wasn't intentionally put there by SNK...)

    Web Original 
  • Random Assault: Tony is from the UK and they got Irishman Mark Breen the same episode which led to geopolitical escalations.
  • Keit-Ai: The title of Keit-Ai was obviously created by people who don't speak or barely speak Japanese because in Japanese, it's impossible to render using kanji, katakana, or hiragananote . You need to finagle the title with a mix of rōmaji and kanji in order to come up with Keit愛.

     Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: In-Universe. In campaign 2, Jester decides to cause chaos by sneaking into the Church of the Platinum Dragon and painting the statue of Bahamut in bright colors. In her mind, this was an innocent prank, and her goal was just to cause a stir. What she failed to realize is that Bahamut directly opposes Tiamat, the Queen of Chromatic Dragons and one of the Betrayer Gods, and that painting an idol of Bahamut in chromatic colors is the highest form of blasphemy one could possibly commit.
  • YouTube videos (they may possibly also be found on other streaming sites) of "Americans reacting to British Football Chants". For anyone who's ever been to a Premier League match can tell you, calling the chants NSFW would be the understatement of the century. No one and nothing is off limits. That includes paedophile jokes. The people being lampooned have been convicted, yet they are also unlikely to be anyone the American sporting fraternity has ever heard of, which leads to statements of disbelief to outright sympathy at the abuse they get because they don't know any better, and occasionally a subsequent retraction once they do the research and find out the truth (Jimmy Savile, we're looking at you). Not so much a problem with Americans who have moved to the UK and thus will be familiar enough with UK Current Affairs to know who is getting slaughtered and why.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • In Bluey, which is from Australia, sandals are referred to as "thongs". In the US, "thongs" usually refers to G-string underwear, so storybook adaptations of the show released in the US change the word to "sandals".
  • 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 in the US goes more noticed in the UK.
  • 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. It's also a reference to John Bender from The Breakfast Club, who his early personality was a pastiche of.
    • 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.
  • 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 dirty humour, 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.
  • 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).
  • Harley Quinn (2019) has a plot point that baffled English-speaking audiences outside the USA. Doctor Psycho is ostracised by his peers, and by everybody, for using the word cunt in an altercation with Wonder Woman. In places like Britain and Australia note , this was a head-scratcher: in a TV show that uses "fuck" liberally and un-bleepedly, why was this word bleeped out as if it were a big deal, and what was so shocking about a character who is even called Psycho using it as an insult to the woman who's just got the better of him in a fight? The guy's entitled to vent in those circumstances, for fuck's sake... the fact that in the USA using this word to a woman is beyond the event horizon even by a villain didn't really travel well.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In Gimmelshtump's neighborhood country Stumblegimp, turning to the side before someone is considered insulting.

  • 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.
    • In general this happens among Latin American countries and even among regions (and also among regions of Spain itself). For example güila means little girl in Costa Rica and whore in Mexico, pajilla means penis in Mexico but means straw in other countries (straw in Mexico is popote in case you wonder), similarly pendejo is a very derogatory word in Mexico for homosexuals (akin to "faggot") whilst just mean coward or weak in other countries. Papaya is a fruit in most Latin America but means vagina in Cuba, and whilst in Nicaragua arrecho means "pissed off" in Costa Rica means "good" and in Peru means sexually aroused.
  • 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.
  • Russian Company Gazprom once tried to expand to Nigeria and founded a subsidiary called Nigaz (meaning "Nigeria Gas").
  • Similar anecdote features a Russian woman in an American store, with her child screaming "die, die, die, die!" In Russian that simply means "gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme!"
  • 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 Canada and the United States, mostly in 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. The slur is spelled differently though, it's "Paki".
    • For that matter, the shortening of the dinosaur name Pachycephalosaurus is "pachy," which is also a homophone of "Paki;" some people have taken to pronouncing it like "pachi" instead.
  • 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.note 
  • 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.) This is often avoided by pronouncing it with a long "a" (e.g. Kaaant).
  • A Dutch manufacturer of dairy products put out an advertising poster depicting a child pestering their parent for sweet yoghurt and saying, "Mummy, that one, that one, that one!" When English speakers got ahold of the ad, they ended up getting a completely different meaning from the tagline:
    Mama, die, die, die!
  • In Dutch, bliksem simply means "lightning".note . in South Africa, however, it is a swear word, an expression of exasperated anger, a verb meaning to beat up, punch or destroy, and applied to individuals, Jou Bliksem! connotes serious and personally directed antagonism. This is one of several things that can trip up Dutch or Belgian visitors to South Africa when they try to speak the local dialect. note 
  • A shop display in Spain featuring a clarification that the traditional Holy Week procession outfits depicted are not meant to resemble members of the Ku Klux Klan can be found here. Thanks for the clarification.note 
  • The Ku Klux Klan's initialism KKK has a different, more heroic connotation in the Philippines. The KKK stands for Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Honorable Association of the Children of the Nation) and were a revolutionary group fighting for independence from Spain.
  • In Philippines, the word "malakas" means strong. In Greece, however, it's an umbrella term for "asshole or Jerkass" and generally means somebody that plays with themself in public (it literally means "softie" in the negative sense when applied to a person). It doesn't help that it's the most known Greek word globally.
  • In Brazil (and the Canadian province of Quebec), Durex is a brand of tape — in fact, it's shorthand for adhesive tape, like Scotch Tape is in the western world. In the UK, they're more well known as makers of condoms. The US has both products and doesn't usually use the brand as a byword for either, though it is more associated with condoms than tape. Travelers be warned.
  • Similarly, "rubber" has different meanings depending on which English-speaking country you're referring to. In the UK, it means a pencil eraser and is where the material they're made of gets its name internationally. In the US, it's slang for a condom, so asking for a rubber will make people think you're about to get lucky.
  • There are several inoffensive words in Portugal that actually are offensive words in Brazilian Portuguese. For instance, "rapariga" in 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 the word faggot.
  • Likewise there is the word "fanny": in the US it's an inoffensive term for the buttocks (and also a girls' name, usually short for Frances or Francine); in England it is the vagina. In Scotland it can also mean "idiot"
  • 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 (the first-ever 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". Naturally, nobody at the lab wanted to touch a tape named "farts".
  • In Chinese culture, 88— along with any number containing 8— is considered lucky and auspicious. Outside of China, it is code for "Heil Hitler" (as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet).
  • In Mainland China, the Internet slang 666 is meant to be used as a compliment when someone has done something awesome, and is quite prevalent in the chat boxes of MOBA games. Elsewhere though, the number is typically associated with Satan and Hell.
  • In Irish history, the Black and Tans were a British colonial police auxiliary organization known for their general brutality and attacks on civilians, such as the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre and the Burning of Cork. Outside of Ireland, the term "Black and Tan" is more commonly associated with a light & dark beer cocktailnote , which has caused a few controversies when US-based companies used the term for Saint Patrick's Day products. Likewise, the drink now called the "Irish Slammer" used to be known as the "Irish Car Bomb", making ordering it a risky move in large parts of the UK.
  • First Kitchen is a popular fast food chain in Japan that gets commonly abbreviated to "Fakkin" (a compression of "suto Kitchin"), something that gets on the company's nerves as they know how it sounds in English, instead pushing FK as a better alternative. Even more annoying (and perhaps funnier) is that as of 2016, First Kitchen was acquired by the American fast food chain Wendy's, and all restaurants have since been rebranded to Wendy's First Kitchen, and people still refer to them as "Fakkin".
  • A buffer solution containing a mixture of Tris base, acetic acid and EDTA is referred to as TAE buffer. "Tae" in Filipino means "poo".
  • One of the earliest and most widely-used open source software applications available for UNIX-like operating systems that provides screen-locking and screensaver functionality is XScreenSaver. There are many screensavers bundled with it; one specific one of them, which was first added to the collection in 2003, is named "Bouncing Cow", and its name makes it pretty self-explanatory as to what it looks like. In March 2005, the project leader of the Ubuntu Linux distribution filed a bug report titled "Bouncing Cow Must Go!", in which he ordered that this screensaver must not be enabled by default in the then-upcoming version 5.04 of Ubuntunote , because he was concerned that it might be offensive to people who adhere to South Asian cultural and/or religious norms about the proper treatment of cattle.
  • In the Spanish language, the continents of North and South America are collectively known as "America" and people from those continents are "Americano," leading to the perception that people from the United States are self-centered for calling themselves American. The Spanish word for US citizens is "Estadounidense," which translates into English as the extremely-clunky "United Statesian." People from the US generally understand that calling themselves American isn't perfect, but the English language doesn't provide any better options, and usually the context is clear (except to the most pedantic of Spanish-speakers) that they're referring to the US. However, the Anglosphere does fully differentiate between North and South America, and someone from Canada or the Afro-Caribbean would never call themselves American without adding "North" to it.
  • There's a popular urban legend that the Chevrolet Nova, when first introduced, did not do well in Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico due to the fact that "No va" in Spanish means "Not going". As it is, there is little to actually back up this legend, especially since the word "nova" is well-understood, even in Spanish, as the astronomical event, and there was already a brand of gasoline in Mexica known as "Nova Gas", meaning the locals rarely if ever misunderstood the branding anyways. In fact, the Nova sold quite well in Mexico and Central America during its run.
  • In this video a Filipina YouTuber is having fun teaching her young daughter the word "puto", which means a steamed rice cake in Tagalog, because her husband is Colombian and the word means "male prostitute" in Spanish. Even knowing the more innocent meaning, the man can't really bring himself to say it in front of his child. Another video shows what happens when the word is used in front of grandma.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cross Cultural Kerfuffle


I Had A Pony!

Under the American assumption that ponies are a breed only affordable to rich snobs, Seinfeld declares that he'd "hate anyone who'd ever owned a pony". This offends his aunt, who used to own a pony back in Poland, a country where, as Seinfeld begs to argue, they probably were a lot more commonplace.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrossCulturalKerfluffle

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