Ikea Hires Thai Translators, Learns Some Product Names Sound Like Sex Acts

Kraft Foods could probably learn something from Ikea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Swedish home furnishings chain spent almost four years researching what the names of its products sound like in Thai, lest some of the translations sound a bit, well, crude.

And for good reason: According to the Journal's James Hookway, "Redalen," the name of an Ikea bed, "sounds uncomfortably close to getting to third base in Thailand."

Additionally, Hookway reports that the "Jättebra," a grey plant pot, could sound like slang for sex.

So Ikea hired a team of Thai speakers to make sure that when the more than 9,000 items from its catalog are transliterated from Swedish to Thai, the translations are appropriate. According to the Journal, the translators will modify a word slightly if a translated product name could be considered questionable.

Kraft, on the other hand, didn't seem to do its due diligence when researching Mondelez International, the new name for its global snack foods brand. In March, Crain's Chicago Business reported that in Russian, "Mondelez" sounds like a term for oral sex.

Nevertheless, the racy translation didn't deter shareholders, who last month voted overwhelmingly to adopt the name.

Other companies have learned the hard way about the need to hire local linguists. On its website, luxury car manufacturer Bugatti once described a car as being available in the color "rape yellow." The mixup was the result of a French to English translation error of "rapeseed plant."

Similarly, according to the BBC, General Motors was forced to change the name of the Buick LaCrosse sedan in Canada when it came to light that "LaCrosse" is slang for masturbation in Quebec.

And in Germany, "vicks" can be a term for sex, so Vicks cough drops are called Wicks in Germany, according to the Toronto Star.

For more on Ikea's naming system as well as other examples of companies whose products have been lost in translation, including Coca-Cola and Microsoft, click over to the Wall Street Journal.