Branding: Always read the label - it may mean something completely different when translated

Pity the poor folk who invent product names; their lives are about to become very complicated

“Gosa Raps”, the name given to an Ikea pillow, sounds innocent enough. But put it through Google’s translate function, and in English it comes up with “Cuddle Rape”.

The translation quickly became an online news story and a hit on Despite the fact that the error was an innocent one – raps, the Swedish for rapeseed, was incorrectly translated – the online quirk highlights the difficulty for the chain, which has more than 9,500 products in its catalogue, with different names for each, which are then sold across 298 stores across 26 countries.

The naming process is a serious business for Ikea. It started because the chain’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, didn’t like having to remember product numbers for everything, and is now run by a team in Sweden. Scandinavian girls’ names are chosen for textiles, boys’ for home chairs and stools, and other products are drawn from an array of different sources from Swedish lakes to Scandi-slang. According to the company, the search for inspiration involves going “through dictionaries, websites, crossword dictionaries, atlases, announcements in the births column, and place-name lists”. The product names must be between four and 10 letters long and checked so that they should “never be ‘bad language’ in any of the many languages spoken in the countries where Ikea has business”.

But sometimes things slip through the net. The children’s workbench “Fartfull” was met with giggles in the anglophone world, as was the desk aimed at the slightly older clientele called the “Jerker”. The Germans guffawed when the “Gutvik” bed came out as it sounded a bit like “good fuck”. Beds were an issue in Thailand, too, according to The Wall Street Journal, where the company hired translators, who picked up one named, “Redalen”, which in Thai “sounds uncomfortably close to getting to third base”.

The Ikea museum in Almhult in Sweden doesn’t sound like the most exciting day out, but it does house a cabinet displaying the “unfortunate” choices of names given to some products, such as Anis, Dick and Fanny – enough to keep the inner schoolboy amused all day.

It’s going to be harder to keep an eye on such things as last year the store announced plans to open between 20 and 25 new shops each year until 2020. While it (and likely other companies too) may be affected when EU Directive 1007/2011 comes into effect next year, which will require those selling clothes to the EU member states to translate their labels into the 23 languages spoken therein, running the risk of people being insulted when they check washing instructions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn