As Swedish furniture giant IKEA expands internationally, the company takes care to avoid putting sex in the face of unsuspecting customers when translating Scandinavian product names.
Ingvar Kamprad, founder of the furniture chain, introduced the system of using Scandinavian place names or children’s names instead of “dull, easy-to-forget product codes,” in the 1950s to help himself cope with dyslexia, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since then, the system has grown to include Norwegian and Danish terms.
The use of language over numbers, however, has caused mistranslations, provoking some giggling or blushed cheeks.
“To the Thai ear, the store’s Redalen bedframe may conjure images of getting to third base, while the Jättebra plant pot sounds suspiciously like a slang word for ‘sex’ —among other possible crude translations,” reports Time.
Before opening in Bangkok in late 2011, the store hired a team of locals to study the product names to see if they were accurate when translated into Thai, making appropriate changes before writing them in Thailand’s cursive, according to The Star. Some of the translation errors were solved with a simple change of a vowel sound or consonant.
“Company executives say they aim to tap into the booming middle classes in countries such as China and Indonesia that are clamoring for the same affordable but stylish furniture that made IKEA a hit in Europe after World War II,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Thailand, for one, has a conservative streak, which means IKEA risks offending sensibilities if it doesn’t police its pronunciations.”