Who’s minding the store at Target? A week ago Consumerist reported that the retailer was selling a plus-size dress in a color unflatteringly called Manatee Gray. (A manatee is also known as a sea cow.) This week there’s been a cross-lingual dustup over a sandal style called “Orina,” which means “urine” in Spanish.
Image from Yahoo Shine. Target quickly removed the product page and is said to be renaming the style.
“Does no one speak Spanish at Target HQ or have access to this thing we call Google?” asked Consumerist reporter Mary Beth Quirk. No and no, apparently. Target’s initial defense was that “orina” means “peaceful” in Russian. As though Russian rather than Spanish were the second-most-spoken language in the United States, after English.
I learned about Target’s number-one problem via a tweet from Mighty Red Pen, who also sent me a link to Yahoo Shine’s coverage of the story. Full marks to senior editor Lylah M. Alphonse, whose recounting of other notable naming gaffes sets the record straight on the Chevy Nova “no-go” myth.
Target isn’t the only business with Orina issues. A similar etymological fallacy led to the naming of Café Orina in the Bay Area city of Concord, California.
When Maura Storace sent me the photo, she commented, “I wonder if the coffee they serve is amber-colored?”
The café’s About Us page includes this earnest explanation:
Meaning of Orina
Its source is Eirene, a Greek name meaning “Peace.”
Narrative: This was the name of the Greek goddess of peace. Until the 20th century, it was commonly pronounced in three syllables (i-REE-nee).
Very nice, but there are almost 700,000 native Spanish speakers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and only a relative handful of Greek speakers.
Moral: Check several bilingual dictionaries before committing to a lovely-sounding exotic name. And know your market.
And as long as this post is already in the toilet, here’s Kmart’s new TV spot, which – incongruously for a retailer not known for creative marketing – takes positive glee in its potty humor. The much-repeated tagline is “Ship my pants.”
For more on the British idiom “taking the piss” – not to be confused with “taking a piss” – read this.