Move over BARF dog food–there’s another unintentionally funny brand name out there.
Have you heard of Putzmeister?
This German company markets machines for pouring and placing concrete, but the name suggests something else. A quick peek in my beloved Joys of Yiddish book explains “putz” rhymes with nuts and is a vulgar slang term for “penis” and term of contempt for “fool, ass, jerk.” The book warns the term should not be used around women and children because it is considerably more offensive than “schmuck”.
Pair “Putz” with “Meister”, which my Langenscheidt’s German Dictionary says means “boss, champion, master,” and you end up with a brand that means “champion fool” or “ass boss”.
But wait–it turns out “Putz” is a German word (in German, “Putz” rhymes with “foots”). The German meaning is not so vulgar, but is still confusing. The German word means “ornament, finery, trimming.” Hmmm, “champion of frou-frou” doesn’t seem to fit with the image of heavy construction.
Putzmeister seems like a fine company, however, they are a victim of a truism of branding from Merriam’s Guide to Naming: not every name can travel. Take the time to check to see if your brand name means something else in foreign languages, or you might up being unintentionally funny.