Lost In Translation

In the late 1980’s in America there was a drug store chain that changed their name to “Osco.” Nobody in corporate did a foreign language search on the word “Osco.”  Turns out it sounded just like “Asco” which translates to “disgusting” in Spanish and sales suffered in markets with Spanish speaking populations. In the present-day world of the internet, you would think that companies do a bit of international research on their brand, but perhaps they should also employ some teenagers to check for international slang meanings? Or maybe they shouldn’t, because, really, do we want to live in a world with an “Ass Bar Bakery” or do we want to live in a world without one?

As we’ve been wandering around Switzerland and western Europe this year, we’ve been compiling a few of our favorite examples of German/French brands that translate into American English slang.


Perhaps this Swiss bakery turns into a “meat-market” after hours? Either way, Barry says he’s gonna pass on the chocolate-filled croissants…



For passive-aggressive owners of out-of-shape kitties


Puky: the bike that only goes in circles.

BB Festival

This event must have been highly anticipated and very difficult to wait for.


A play car at Basel Airport has the phrase “Always In The Road” on it.  Reminds us of that Willie Nelson classic “In The Road Again.” (Side note: not sure what is going on with Thelma and Louise driving the car here…)


This Swiss cafe specializes in food you can enjoy twice!


When folks near Zurich say “Go Frick yourself,” it means take the train to this scenic village and hike among its famous cherry blossoms.


“And you thought that kid from Growing Pains would never amount to anything.”  Or, “the competition in Basel’s lighting store industry is pretty stiff.” 

We realize our sign choices are a bit one sided and our captions are admittedly sophomoric, so we’ll also keep our eyes out for some signs back in the States that wouldn’t translate too well overseas to even things out when we return home.

21 thoughts on “Lost In Translation

  1. So so good! Yes, I don’t want to live in a world without an Ass Bar! I spit out my coffee on the Blue Balls festival caption. You guys are really making the most of your year. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is amazing! Reminds me of all of the Japanese brands I’ve seen over the years… like their milk-like drink “cal pis” which, when pronounced with a Japanese accent, sounds like cow piss…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are a whole series of books that do this — “Sign Spotting,” I think you need to reach out to the publishers, Lonely Planet, to not only add yours, but apply for a job: your signs & captions are as good as any in the books! Love ’em – thanks for the laughs!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Reflections On Our Swiss Family Sabbatical | Swiss Family Sabbatical

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