Phrembah (a potato-like mystery) (phrembah) wrote,
Phrembah (a potato-like mystery)

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I've really got to quit this...

Today at work I saw that someone is now driving a Mercedes "Kompressor". A "Kompressor"? Really? Yep. I Googled it and, sure as Shinola, the Hindu Business Line confirms that, to date, 1,800 "Kompressors" have rolled off the DaimlerChrysler assembly line in Pune, India. Hey, if it's on the net, it's gotta be true.

*I met a woman once who made her living as a translator. She grew up in Germany in a conservative family, against which she rebelled vehemently. She moved to France at 16 or 17, dyed her hair (to look less German), enrolled in a university and worked on her French until you couldn't tell from her speech that she wasn't a native. You could tell from her papers, though, and she had a hell of a time getting a decent, career-type job (seems there's some kind of cultural bias thing goin' on there somewhere). So she moved to New York where nobody cared where she came from, but where she still felt that her European accent was an impediment to serious consideration for promotions and such. While the prejudice in America seemed based on shallower pretexts ("That ther lady over ther sounds like some kina durn feruhner, know wud uh mean?"), the overall effect was the same. So she doggedly honed her English until she had virtually no accent speaking it, either.

The end result was that she ended up super-fluent in German, French and English and found she could make excellent money translating "the hard stuff". The hard stuff being legal contracts, diplomatic documents and, as it turns out, ad copy. Legal and diplomatic text is hard because it can contain nuances and subtle implications that might not be that clear, even in the native version, but which had better not be lost in translation. The ad copy, she said, was a challenge because simply translating the language was not enough; she had to translate the culture as well.

One amusing example was the way that Americans will respond instantly to almost anything that is described as "exciting": "Be sure to make it down to Crazy Wally's Appliance Apocalypse this weekend and check out Sunbeam's line of exciting new toaster ovens." That works fine in Des Moines, but to a middle-class German consumer, "exciting" and "toaster oven" do not belong in the same sentence. To the average adult German, an "exciting" toaster oven is a dangerous toaster oven. There is nothing exciting about baking a potato for one or toasting a bagel or heating up a bowl of yesterday's soup, and there doesn't need to be, thank you very much. So, as often as not she ended up rewriting the entire ad as she "translated" it.

Another observation was the way European cars are generally designated by numbers: Mercedes 450SL, BMW 318i, Saab 950 Turbo, Porche 911, etc., etc. She said this was because most Europeans thought that naming your car after a mountain or a town or a wild animal or an Indian tribe was just dumb. They do not understand the concept and, she continued, you will notice that when they do feel compelled for some reason to name an automobile, they come up with the dumbest names imaginable: Golf, Jetta, Passat, Boxster, etc.

And, now, "Kompressor". The world had a lot of respect for European automobiles. Maybe they should just leave well enough alone.

. . .

This is weird. I Googled "Shinola" just to see if I had spelled it correctly and came up with this site, [broken link], actually called "Shinolas" and dedicated to the criticism of "branding" and brand names. I think it's hilarious, especially the news item entitled "Emotional Engineering". If we, as consumers, actually respond to this stuff the way they think we do, we are doomed! They'll have us eating dog shit out of yogurt containers just because they came up with an irresistible name and spelled it in a way that reaches directly into our brains, short-circuiting our common sense and annihilating our better judgment.

The site is (was?), oddly enough, sponsored by a "Naming and Branding" consultancy called "A Hundred Monkeys". Boy, the web we weave just gets tangleder and tangleder.

. . .

*This is what she told me, as verbatim as it can be 6 or 7 years after the fact. I have not been to Europe and have to admit that I have no personal knowledge of these things. I'm just easily amused.
Tags: brain fart, compelling chronicle, profundity extraordinaire, rant

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