Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Fancy a glass of Sweat?

with 8 comments

island beverages home delivery
Image by h-bomb via Flickr

That would be Pocari Sweat: a Japanese soft drink available in the UK at a store near you (if you’re feeling brave).

Apparently it’s popular in its country of origin. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Pocari Sweat:

… the name was chosen by the manufacturers originally for the purpose of marketing the product as a sports drink in Japan, where people generally do not mentally translate names appearing in English and are therefore not bothered by the connotation. It was largely derived from the notion of what it is intended to supply to the drinker: all of the nutrients and electrolytes lost when sweating.

Apparently ‘Pocari’ does not have any particular meaning in Japan. (Perhaps we should just be thankful it’s not the name of a famous sumo wrestler.)

The world of branding is a strange one indeed. In the UK, the names of all kinds of everyday food and household items have been changed over the years for reasons that remain mysterious. The chocolate bar ‘Marathon’ was renamed ‘Snickers’  (meaningful); the cream cleaner ‘Jif’ (as in get the cleaning done in a jiffy?) is now esoterically called ‘Cif’; The chewy fruit-flavoured sweets originally called ‘Opal Fruits’ (aptly suggestive of their colour and taste) are now rather irrelevantly labelled ‘Starbust’; the face cream brand ‘Ulay’ took on a somewhat Spanish complexion when it became ‘Olay’. (Yes, I know that’s really spelt ‘olé’.)

Branding disaster

We grumble and moan about these name changes, but few are as disastrous as the UK Post Office’s decision a while back to rebrand itself ‘Consignia’. Yes, read it and weep.

The Consignia branding fiasco is dissected in this BBC website article, written before the name was unceremoniously, and rather aptly, consigned to merciful oblivion. After just 16 months,  Consignia was renamed ‘Royal Mail’ and we Brits felt the world had been put to rights.

By the way, Sweat on the rocks for me. With an olive.

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Written by Wordwatch

13/05/2010 at 6:25 am

8 Responses

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  1. The enormous financial forces behind the selling of mass-marketed goods have an interesting influence upon language. I’m glad you brought it up. Some of the changes you mentioned were from corporate attempts to unify world markets, so Marathon became Snickers (what it was in most countries) and Jif became Cif because too many other places where it’s sold don’t have a “J” in their alphabet. The UK got to keep Twix, which had been called Raiders elsewhere.

    McDonald’s uses the same name everywhere, though the sandwich monnikers vary by locale. Unfortunately a Big Mac by any other name still isn’t healthful.

    Invisible Mikey

    13/05/2010 at 1:45 pm

    • You’re absolutely right about financial forces, Mikey. I didn’t know about the reason for dropping ‘j’ or that Twix had been called ‘Raiders’. Thanks very much for adding your comments to this post — very interesting.

      Deborah

      13/05/2010 at 1:50 pm

  2. It’s worth mentioning that the name derives from the intended purpose of the drink as an electrolyte replacement.

    Ron

    13/05/2010 at 1:59 pm

    • Damn! didn’t see that in your post.

      Ron

      13/05/2010 at 2:03 pm

      • Hi, Ron — it’s still a strange leap from such a purpose to deciding on the name ‘Sweat’. I suppose some native English speakers buy it because of the name, rather than in spite of it. Although I don’t think the Japanese would have been thinking along those particular marketing lines (i.e. the appeal of the unappealing).

        Deborah

        13/05/2010 at 3:02 pm

  3. Hi Deborah,

    Well, as we know, the Japanese find many odd things appealing!

    I think it’s only the mainly monoglot Brits and Americans that worry about such things. The Japanese are happy to pick & mix words from languages other than their own, a habit which reaches its zenith (or nadir , depending on one’s point of view), in car names for their home market.

    Ron

    13/05/2010 at 3:10 pm

  4. And on T-shirt slogans…

    Ron

    13/05/2010 at 3:11 pm

    • Yes — very true. Thanks, Ron.

      Deborah

      13/05/2010 at 3:38 pm


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