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A Cross Cultural Kerfluffle is sort of meeting between a Funny Aneurysm Moment and Values Dissonance. It's different from Values Dissonance in that it isn't a case of different cultural values which makes for the potential wince, but rather when an accidental reference to something negative and well known in one country or culture is made unknowingly by a program from another.

One of the most famous examples could be the swastika - in Buddhist countries it's a benevolent symbol of the sun. In the West... not so much.

This could be merely amusing, but the potential offense is the more notorious version of this trope.

See also: Culture Clash, Funny Aneurysm Moment, Values Dissonance.

Examples of Cross Cultural Kerfluffle include:


Anime

  • The Hyuga branch line curse mark in Naruto was changed from a manji (or swastika in Sanskrit, and consequently in Buddhist scriptures) to an "x" because the former Nazi connection; it stayed in the English manga, however.
  • Similarly, this happened in One Piece. Whitebeard's flag originally had swastika-like crossbones, but was changed from that chapter-on-out to be more like a plus sign.
  • Kaede's Instant Fanclub in Shuffle! is called Kitto Kitto Kaede, or KKK. The English dub changes this to Knights of Kissing Kaede to preserve the Added Alliterative Appeal of all the fanclub names -- but every time the club is mentioned, someone notes that they're "not the guys with the sheets".
  • Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 film Laputa: Laputa: Castle in the Sky had its first word dropped for releases in Spanish-speaking locales and anywhere near them, as la puta is Spanish for "the bitch" or "the whore." However, the name "Laputa" is a reference to a country in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and Swift almost certainly was aware of the implication.
    • Swift used the name as a Shout-Out to a comment from Martin Luther referring to Reason as a "whore" (in the sense that one can manipulate logic to reach a desired conclusion).
    • For the same reason, this is why "Laputa" is the target to be bombed in Doctor Strangelove.
    • And to think it could have been prevented if it had been transliterated as "Rapyuta".
  • In Bleach the hilt of the sword of the protagonist in its bankai (upgraded) mode is the character manji, which as stated in the Naruto example above, is a swastika
  • During the first Tournament Arc of Yu Yu Hakusho, Urameshi fights a ninja with a shaven head and a manji tattoed on his forehead. Since the Manji, as mentioned above, bears a strong resemblance to the Swastika, the first thing a western audience would think of him is 'Skinhead Neo-Nazi'.
  • Darker Than Black has a "Heaven's Gate over Brazil (the counterpart to a "Hell's Gate" over Tokyo). To a western audience, the term is probably better associated with Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles' comet cult and their horrible end. Interestingly (and perhaps coincidentally), Heaven's Gate could also be a loose translation of the title Mikado.

Comic Books

  • Marvel's Schutz Heiliggruppe. Sure, the intention (portraying superheroes from modern Germany, who hunt down Nazi war criminals) is laudable, but the execution... Oh boy!
    • Let's start with the group's name itself. It is supposed to mean Group of Protecting Saints, but actually translates to Protection Holy-Group. (The intended figurative meaning was League of Guardian Angels, which would in German be Liga der Schutzengel. The translation published in Germany simply went with Helden-Liga --> Hero League.) Granted, Gratuitous German is bad, but not really offensive. Perhaps they aimed for Schutzheiligen-Gruppe, which would be Group of Patron Saints; a bit closer, but still wrong.
    • The leader of the group is Hauptmann Deutschland. Obviously, he is intended to be the German counterpart of Captain America, complete with a name that is a direct translation of Captain Germany and a flag-costume. The problem: Such Patriotic Fervor is not very well regarded in post-war Germany. (Since the Football World Cup 2006, displaying patriotism in a modest degree may be more acceptable, but the Schutz Heiligruppe had been introduced before that event.) And the fact that a military rank is part of his name makes it even worse. Marvel later changed his name into Vormund. Intended meaning: Guardian. Actual meaning: Legal Guardian. D'oh! (The correct term would be Wächter, the translation published in Germany went with Freiheitskämpfer --> Freedom Fighter)
    • And the second member of the Schutz Heiligruppe is Blitzkrieger (Lightning Warrior)! OK, let's see: A member of a group which is dedicated to exterminating Nazism, is named after... an infamous war tactic, invented by the Nazis? WHAT? (The translation published in Germany just went with Generator, due to his electricity-related powers.)
    • The third member is Zeitgeist. Nothing offensive here. (Phew!) Just maybe a bit unimaginative, considering that Zeitgeist (Time Spirit) happens to be a quite well-known word among English native-speakers.

Commercials

  • This Japanese mobile phone ad depicts an Obama rally with red 'Change' signs and the company's mascot, a monkey, on the podium. And that's all that needs to be said about this.
    • In a similar vein, a German frozen food company launched a product named after Barack Obama following the 2008 elections. The actual food item being named after the new President? Fried chicken.
  • Recently an Australian KFC ad caused a bit of a kerfluffle in the United States. It showed an awkward white Australian fan surrounded by hundreds of cheering black West Indies fans (who were the upcoming opposition) before he offered them all fried chicken. The ad was from a series of "cricket survival guide" ads showing the Australian solving various problems with KFC so he could enjoy the cricket. So the Australian train of thought was simple - being surrounded by supporters of the opposing team is awkward, offer KFC, everyone has a good time. When the ad was leaked internationally, American commentators saw a white guy placating scary black people with fried chicken, and called racism. This confused the Australians, since the "black people like fried chicken" stereotype is not widespread there.
  • Australia's "So where the bloody hell are you?" tourism campaign. The British did not like the word "bloody". The Canadians did not like the word "hell". The Singaporeans did not like either. Overlaps with Did Not Do the Bloody Research, as "bloody hell" is a fairly mild oath in Australia.

Literature

  • A minor, comical example can be found in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. During the section explaining how scientists view of the Babel Fish has allowed for the final proof of the non-existence of God, it is said how one can then go on to prove black is white and promptly get run over at the next zebra crossing. In Britain and many other countries, black-and-white stripped "Zebra Crossings" are the equivalent of the (often yellow and consisting of two parallel line stretching from curb to opposite curb to walk between) American "Crosswalk". Americans, when reading the joke, usually imagine the term as an equivalent to a "Deer Crossing" (that is to say, a place where zebras cross) which makes for an equally humorous, though widely different joke.
    • In at least one Swedish translation, "zebra crossing" was translated literally into "zebrakorsning" which has no connotations to traffic at all. It could be interpreted as "cross-breeding of zebras" which doesn't make much sense, or "crossing a zebra" (as in travelling across it) which makes even less sense.
    • In-universe is an ill-timed remark by Arthur Dent which happens to coincide with the opening of a small space/time wormhole, the other end of which is at a war negotiation long ago in a distant galaxy, where the phonemes of his comment just so happen to translate into the vilest killing insult either species has on hand.

In The General, the Skinners (nomadic barbarians) refer to the main character as "half-man", which pisses of one of his subordinates. The main character takes his subordinate aside and explains that to the Skinners "half-man" is high praise of a non-Skinner. In the Skinner language, the words for Outsider and "not-man" are the same, as are the words for Skinner and "Real Man". By calling him "half-man", they are saying he's much better than almost all others.

Live Action TV

  • The Sarah Jane Adventures episodes "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? I & II" have a character who chooses to switch fates with Sarah Jane, the fate? Drowning (or possibly from the impact from falling from a pier into the sea, it's not clear). Her name was Andrea Yates, which is the same name as that of an American woman who drowned her own children. Several American fans winced and called this distasteful on the Outpost Gallifrey forums; but it was very unlikely intentional because the Andrea Yates case was hardly widely known in the UK.
  • Reversing the countries (though it wouldn't have caused offence but laughter), the captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01 was almost called Jeffrey Archer until UK fans pointed out it wasn't quite the straight-arrow name they had in mind.
  • A first season episode of Mork and Mindy was heavily censored when it was first run in the UK because of a character named Arnold Wanker. Oops.
    • UK viewers still titter at the closing credits of any Buffy episode where Thomas Wanker is listed as the composer. (In the States, it's the word "titter" that would cause... giggles.)
  • The 1982 BBC adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor featured fairy disguises that looked remarkably like Ku Klux Klan costumes.
  • Due South may have suffered in the eyes of British viewers because the Mountie's hot boss had the same name as the most hated (and admired; being divisive was actually part of her policy) woman in recent British history.
  • In Doctor Who when the Doctor said "You see what I mean? Domestic!" in response to Mickey several American fans expressed disgust at his apparent racism; however this was misunderstanding of the language. In the UK "Domestic" isn't really used to mean "Domestic servant", but rather "Domestic argument" or in this case "mundane and boring". Not that it's used that way very often in most parts of the US, either.
  • Played with in an episode of Thirty Rock in which Jack struggles to come up with a name for a mini-microwave which is not offensive in any language.

 Jack: Every one of the names we came up with was offensive in some language, including English, Frank.

Frank: They knew what a "Hot Richard" was?

Music

  • Rock singer Meat Loaf wanted to show a German audience that not only did he enjoy performing for them, but he enjoyed being a guest in their country. Since the only German he knew was limited to sausage related words, he decided to fly the red, black and gold at his concert. He didn't realize that Germans aren't as gung-ho about their flag as Americans are.
  • This Arab Israeli patriotic song is really infamous in Russian internet. It is called "Bladi" (Arabic for "my country"), which sounds like "whores" in Russian. The first words of the chorus - "Ya bladi, jawwek hadi, ma ahlaki, ya bladi"(O my country, your climate is soft, what is more beautiful than you, o my country?) - sounds rather close to "Where do whores live, yeah, the whores, the furry whores?" in Russian. The rest of the song sounds no better, what with misheard "Russian" lyrics someone provided. Given that around half of Israeli Jews are Russian-speaking, it's a wonder no one in audience burst into laughter.

Professional Wrestling

  • At a live untelevised WWE show in Germany in 2004, John "Bradshaw" Layfield goose-stepped his way to the ring to try and get cheap heel heat from the crowd. It did more than that - many Germans didn't even like it as a kayfabe joke, especially because imitating the Nazis is actually illegal in Germany. The backlash led to Layfield getting fired from CNBC just weeks after they hired him from Fox News as a financial analyst.

TV Tropes

  • When someone, especially someone from the EU, sees the term 'EU', it is usual for a pause before realising what is meant is EU.
    • Also, some people from Spanish-speaking countries may think you are referring to the United States (Estados Unidos), although the normal Spanish abbreviation for United States is EE.UU..
      • It also works in French-speaking areas, where the United States is les États-Unis (the accent is often dropped on capitals and/or when typed on English keyboards).
  • Similarly any reference to "America" is confusing. Do you mean the USA, the North American continent or the South American continent? Spanish speaking countries tend to view both North America and South America as one continent and everyone in them as Americans while English speaking countries don't.
  • There's always some well-meaning Grammar Nazi wiki editors going back and forth on regional spellings of words here on the site, for instance Americans correcting "colour" to "color" and Brits switching it right back. Eventually they realize that on an international site like this either spelling is fine.

Video Games

  • The reaction to the Resident Evil 5 trailer. A few people in the US found the depiction of Africans to hearken back to the more openly racist days when depictions of Africans and African-Americans as animalistic and barely human were rather common and accepted. Most importantly, they found the concept of a white American male shooting shambling, black Africans more than a bit distasteful.
  • Another one in the "amusement, not offence" category: the online RPG Asda Story, of banner ad fame, is liable to elicit giggles from UK residents. Especially if they've just returned from doing their shopping at Asda.
  • The Let's Play of Pokémon Quartz said the Mole People were supposed to be a compendium of negative Jew stereotypes. While the joke's funny and all, it's unlikely a Spanish teen would know that much about Jews to the point of doing a Take That: Spain doesn't really have much of a Jew population, as they were kicked out of the country a long time ago and (obviously) they don't want to come back.

Western Animation

  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" created a bit of a stir due to the fact that in North America (where the cartoon was made) the word "cider" is generally used to refer the non-alcoholic variety of the drink, while in Europe cider is assumed to be alcoholic. This makes the episode quite amusing for European viewers, as the fact that the entire town is willing to stand in line for hours at a cider stand makes the entire cast look like drunks.

Real Life

  • A zoo in Germany was so honored that President Obama visited their town they named an animal after him - a monkey.
  • In Japanese Sign Language, the syllable "se" is indicated by a single raised middle finger. Pointed toward the signer in this case, but still.

Bite the Wax Tadpole

Cases where the translation or logo could have caused offense:

  • The Mitsubishi Pajero, although named after an Argentinian mountain range, had to be renamed "Montero" in certain countries, as in some dialects of Spanish, this makes it the "Mitsubishi Wanker."
    • Likewise, the Toyota MR-2 had to be renamed in France since "MR-2" in French is pronounced exactly the same way as "est merdeux", in other words "(It) is shitty".
      • It's for exactly the same reason that French-speaking people in the UK are highly amused when they find out there's an (apparently) popular soap opera entitled Emmerdale.
  • Umbro and Siemens have both had to apologize after releasing products called Zyklon - it is the German word for cyclone, but also nearly the name of the poison gas used by the Nazis in the Holocaust, and unsurprisingly, the Germans and Jewish groups are somewhat touchy about this.
    • An amusement park in Tipton, Pennsylvania used to have a roller coaster called Zyklon.
  • IKEA's Gutvik bed was named after a town in Sweden, but German speakers were somewhat amused. ("Gut Fick" is German for "good fuck". That it was a children's bed made this all the more unfortunate.)
    • Another IKEA example: The storage box Knep (meaning 'trick' in Swedish) caused quite a few giggles in neighboring Denmark, since the name literally means 'fuck' in Danish.
    • A bin full of "Trampa" ("crap" in Portuguese, "tread" in Swedish) doormats were spotted in an IKEA store. Said doormats were even brown. Whether they are still being sold remains unknown, though.
  • Woolworths put a children's bunk-bed for sale on their website under the name Lolita, and seemed genuinely baffled that people didn't take it well. Between that and Zyklon, you'd think someone would at least run the names through Google.
  • The name of the Nintendo Wii caused a certain amount of amusement in the English-speaking world when it was first announced, but has since been accepted by the public.
    • It remains a viable vein of comedy gold, as this year's April Fool's Day products at thinkgeek.com proved. Specifically, the Super Pii Pii Brothers game.
  • When Titanic was released, there was a good deal of snickering in Lebanon as the title, in its English pronunciation, sounds awfully close to "Come, let's fuck!" in the local dialect.
  • Coon Cheese was named for the family that founded (and still owns) the company. They can trace their name back further than any racist usage.
    • The true meaning of the word coon, as opposed to the racial slur, is short for raccoon. Thus, if you read any stories by Clifford D Simak about coons or coon hunting, be advised he's referring to raccoons. The Maine Coon is also a breed of cat.
  • The Honda Fit was renamed Honda Jazz in Scandinavia, since most respectable citizens might not be too thrilled to be driving around in a car almost called the "Honda Cunt". And that's not to mention the extreme amount of other naughty Norwegian terms can be found around the web, if one tried. Dr. Rumpe ("Butt"), anyone? Drita ("Shitted", also meaning "drunk") Albanian Folk Music? Hassis Kukemelk ("cock milk")? Lior Narkis the Bilingual Bonus Guy ("Narkis" is Norwegian slang for "druggie")? Alkis Travels ("Alcoholic")?
  • The Chevrolet Nova was the butt of (good-natured) jokes in Spanish speaking countries, because "nova" can be easily transformed into "no va" ("doesn't go" or "doesn't work"). In the USA, this was exaggerated and became an urban legend about the car having had terrible sales in Latin America, even though this wasn't the case.
  • There is a light bulb manufacturer named Osram, which unfortunately means "I will shit [on something]" in Polish.
  • As noted on the Bite the Wax Tadpole page, a German company released an MP 3 player called the "i.Beat," in a range of colors with Xtreme Kool Letterz. The black one was labeled "Blaxx," making the full name "i.Beat Blaxx." This naturally caused a stir among American observers over the possible racial connotations of the name.
  • English dialect case: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." Though this bit of Double Entendre was intentional.
  • The American Sci Fi Channel changed their name to Sy Fy, which in Polish slang is a colloquialism for syphilis and is also used as an derogatory indicator of extremely low quality, an equivalent to English 'crap'.
    • Something not at all lost on Americans who dislike the change, some of whom have taken to calling it the "Syphilis Channel".
  • The webpages of a woman named Ziva Kunda were popular amongst Czech and Slovak teenagers, as her name translates to "a living cunt".
  • In Ukraine there was a beverage that was advertised as 'Blue Water' in English without any further translation, this however sounds very much like 'Blevota' which means Puke. Everyone couldn't stop laughing over signs and advertisements telling you to "Drink refreshing puke!" The company soon changed their labels to 'Water Blue'.
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