Saturday 14 December 2019

Bet you didn't know that Suri is a 'pickpocket'*

*That's what TomKat's little girl's name means in Portuguese

Karen Creed

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's toddler Suri may be the cutest thing on two legs -- but did you know her name means 'pickpocket' in Japanese and 'turned sour' in French?

And has anyone told Posh and Becks that the name that they chose for their third child, Cruz, means 'withers' in Spain, which are the ridges between the shoulder bones of a horse. And in Portugal, his name translates as 'cross'.

Wayne and Coleen Rooney, meanwhile, chose Kai for their firstborn, which means 'stop it' in the African language of Yoruba.

Fortunately for celebrities trying to source unique names for their children and those wealthy enough to put serious money into their baby naming, a new service has been set up to avoid terrible translations of unusual name choices. Today Translations investigates the worldwide meanings of the name you may want to call your child.

With more than 2000 linguists sifting through the translation of the name in over 100 languages and dialects, parents are guaranteed that any embarrassing meanings will be revealed before it is too late.

"You'll rest assured you are picking a good name," says Jurga Zilinskiene, the company's chief executive.

"At the end of the day, it's something a person has to live with for the rest of their lives."

The service comes with a princely sum, however, of approximately €1,000 per name check.

For celebrities, this may just be pocket money, but for the average income couple, it seems a rather extravagant splurge.

Some parents may argue that even if their child's name has an outrageous meaning in Japanese, how likely is it that their child will ever live in Japan or travel there. Others, of course, won't be bothered at all by the translation of their child's name, even if it means something contrary in another language.

Despite the linguistic pitfalls, the trend among parents to seek out original titles for children continues to flourish. It is not exclusive to celebrity circles either. Here in Ireland, Mary, John and Ann are giving way to more exotic names like Mia, Ruben and Shakira.

Given our strong sense of wanderlust, many of these babies will grow up to travel to foreign pastures only to discover some hilarious translations for their names in other languages and dialects.

For example, Mia is an endearing name for many Irish babies, but in Hebrew it can mean 'uncertain' or 'bitter', and can also be translated as 'rebellion'.

For parents who are inspired by character names from movies, theatre or TV soaps, they should look deep into their meanings before making any decisions.

For example, one of Shakespeare's leading ladies and most beautiful characters, Portia (from Julius Caesar) translates as 'pig'. The names of individuals are not the only concern.

Titles of companies and brands can also be problematic, especially if they expand on a global scale. Furniture giant IKEA, for example, has slapped some unfortunate names onto its furniture, causing IKEA's English-speaking consumers to titter.

The Lessebo loveseat was one notable one and another has to be the Fartfull kids' workbench. In 2005, this half-desk hit stores with hopes that it would tantalise parents with visions of a more productive child.

Although 'Fartfull' merely meant 'speedy' in Swedish, IKEA eventually pulled it from their website. Between its name and design, it would not be surprising if more than one child mistook it for a portable toilet.

Another company that has had to re-think its global market is Gerber. The name of the famous baby-food maker is also the French word for vomiting! Gerber is therefore not in France.

Car companies have also been forced into swift name-changes. Ford's Pinto didn't do well in Brazil as Pinto is Brazilian slang for 'male genitals', so Ford re-named the car the Corcel, which means 'horse' or 'steed'.

In Italy, a problem arose with the Golf Jetta, as the letter "J" doesn't exist in the Italian alphabet, so Jetta is pronounced "Ietta", which means 'misfortune'.

Another memorable one for Ford is the Fiera, which isn't too popular among Latin-Americans, since 'fiera' means 'ugly old woman'.

And Mitsubishi had to re-name its Pajero because the word is a vulgar term for masturbating. In Spanish-speaking countries, this model has since been sold as the Montero instead.

With companies and people, it can often be the case that their name bears both an inspiring and embarrassing significance.

My favourite example is my friend Obi. While Star Wars fans instantly link him to the defiant movie character Obi-Wan Kanobi, in mainland Europe many girls are only familiar with the name Obi as a top-selling brand of tampons.

Not quite the best chat-up line.

Irish Independent

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