Huru voodoo, or when words go wrong

Translation news, now. This week it’s the story of Canadian brewery Hell’s Basement who came an embarrassing cropper after christening their new pale ale Huruhuru – a Māori word they thought meant ‘feather’. In fact, it means ‘pubic hair’. Awkward.

Still, Hell’s Basement wasn’t alone. Also getting caught up in the lost-in-translation net was a Wellington leather outlet who’d gone the whole hog, naming their entire store Huruhuru. Cold comfort, but at least they’d done their due diligence. Although in their case, consulting with and gaining approval from none other than the Intellectual Property Office Māori Advisory Committee doesn’t appear to have done them much good.

Using words from another culture has always been fraught with danger. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we reported on the considerable hoo-ha resulting from Coke’s unintentional faux pas after branding an airport vending machine with the words Kia Ora, Mate. Far from the cheery hello the soft-drink giant had hoped to engender by using such a larrikin-style greeting, it seemed that not all returning Kiwis were thrilled to bits to see a sign that (basically) said, ‘Hello, death!’ Who knew?

And that’s the point. How do you know? We’ve all heard the stories of unfortunate Asian character tattoos that mean nothing like what the willing tattoo-ee had hoped for. Such permanent reminders of a clanger can be hard to bear. But what about when it’s your business that suffers?

Well, that can be really tough. As the Wellington leather goods outlet candidly admitted, they simply don’t have the money to rebrand. ‘The whole scenario really has got us by the short and curlies’, said their spokesperson. (Actually, they didn’t. We just couldn’t resist.)

Hell’s Basement was quick to issue an apology, saying they ‘didn’t realise the potential to offend through (their) artistic interpretation’ and made the expected promise to ‘do better in future’. So, what will happen to all that pale ale? Will bottles of Huruhuru become collector’s items? We just don’t know. But what we do know is that it’s a costly – and embarrassing – error whatever way you slice it.

But of course, it’s not only foreign words that can cause a business to sweat in the unwanted glare of the unforgiving media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Simple, everyday mistakes in English spelling and grammar can speak absolute volumes about care factor and can make a professional business look positively amateur. In other words, they damage your brand.

The good news is that the team at Proof Communications can spot typos and grammatical errors at 100 paces. Call us pernickety, accuse us of having no life, but it’s what we do – and do exceptionally well. And, whilst we’re not about to act as an authority on words in any other language than our own, what we can do is promise you that your business communications will be error-free every time.

If you’re worried about your website, marketing materials, annual report, tender submissions, award entries and more looking less than 100 per cent perfect, give us a call. Your brand is safe in our hands!

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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