A blooper is defined as an embarrassing public blunder, but as long as it's someone else's mistake, most of us are quite capable of getting past the embarrassment to enjoy the humor. Not only have books appeared in recent years to document and preserve bloopers, but TV shows on the subject have delighted in exposing human fallibility, too; especially, when authority figures are involved.
The word blooper, which first showed up between 1925 and 1930, has an interesting origin. In the early days of radio, a receiver that wasn't finely tuned could generate antenna frequency signals that interfered with other nearby receivers. Based on what someone in those days thought they sounded like, these high-pitched sounds came to be called bloops, and the offending receiver was called a blooper.
Samplings of Bloopers found from many sources
- Asked to define "monogamy", a student offered: "A wood ancient Egyptians made beautiful furniture from."
- The couple took the vowels of marriage.
- I think Youth In Asia [euthanasia] should be legalized.
- He viewed each new illness or disease he encountered as a chance to enrich the anals of science.
- Thou should not cubit thy neighbor's wife.
- William W. Eley (presumably a teacher) writes the following was received on a history essay: One of the least proud moments in American history was when we bombed Pearl Harbor.
- Kitty Lassiter of Boykins, Virginia says a child wrote a class paper about the discovery of America which began: Christopher Columbus discovered America by cursing around on his ships the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Fe.
- She also includes, as a bonus, an item which she swears is from the Suffolk Sun: "Toilet seats were stolen from The Virginia Beach Police Department. The cops had nothing to go on."
- Magna Carta said that the king was not to order taxis without the consent of Parliament.
- A metaphor is a thing you shout through at football games.
- Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.
- Gravity was invented by Sir Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.
- On a Virginia wheat field in 1830, Cyrus McCormick demonstrated his automatic raper, which automatically threw 50,000 men out of work.
Cracking an international market is a goal of many corporations. Even the big multi-nationals run into trouble because of language and cultural differences:
- When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, "Fly in leather," it came out in Spanish as "Fly naked".
- Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea".
- The Microsoft ad slogan, as translated into Japanese: "If you don't know where you want to go, we'll make sure you get taken".
- Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, sounds much more interesting in Spanish. "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that translated states, "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused" or "It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate".
- The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as something that when pronounced sounded very much like Coca-Cola: Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the characters used meant "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth".
- In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead." When Pepsi started marketing its products in China a few years back, they translated their slogan, "Pepsi Brings You Back to Life". The slogan in Chinese really meant, "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave".
- Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off".
- The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem-Feeling Free," got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".
- When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
- Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means "horse".
- When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant".
- An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato".
- Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
- Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno mag.
- In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water".
- Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.
- When Vicks first introduced its cough drops on the German market, they were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of "v" is "f"; which in German is the gutteral equivalent of "sexual penetration". Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its product, only to learn that "Puff" in German is a colloquial term for a whorehouse. The English weren't too fond of the name either, as it's a highly derogatory term for a non-heterosexual.
- The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries. "No va" means "it doesn't go" in Spanish.
- A hair products company, Clairol, introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the manure stick.
- When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA; with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside the container because so many people there can't read.
- A Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
- Matsushita Electric is promoting a new Japanese PC targeted at the Internet. Panasonic developed a complete Japanese Web browser, and to make the system "user-friendly", licensed the cartoon character "Woody Woodpecker" as the "internet guide." Panasonic eventually planned on a world version of the product. A huge marketing campaign was to have introduced the product in Japan. The day before the ads were to be released, Panasonic suddenly pulled back and delayed the product launch indefinitely. The reason: the ads featured the slogan "Touch Woody-The Internet Pecker." An American staff member at the internal product launch explained to the stunned and embarrassed Japanese what "touch woody" and "pecker" meant in American slang.
Quotes: Bloopers Part 2.
Quotes: Bloopers Part 3.