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WordSafety: Check a name for unwanted meanings in foreign languages (wordsafety.com)
210 points by cel1ne 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 149 comments

I think this is a great idea for people for people wanting to respect other's sensitivity.

However, I also think that it is even more important for people to respect other languages/cultures by not attributing their own independent negative connotations.

For example when it comes to naming a project, a Swede shouldn't get offended by an English-speaker using "fan" (Swedish swear for devil), and an English speaker shouldn't get offended by a Swede using "slut" (Swedish root for stop/end).

Maybe I'm wrong, but this is a neat service nonetheless.

I'm sure it happens, but I don't usually hear names with unfortunate meanings discussed in terms of offence or respect, but much more practical concerns: inability to get the culture to take the name seriously, inability to register a business, that sort of thing.

I'm not going to get strident at a Swedish company trying to launch a product called "slut", but at the same time I'm going to have trouble taking it seriously, and I'm probably not going to recommend it to anyone.

So if a Swedish company creates a revolutionary pesticide called 'BugSlut', you'll have no qualms recommending it to your green-fingered elderly relatives?

Just put an ü or ø in there somewhere. Problem solved.


I think you may have misinterpreted my comment, I said the opposite of that.

Ah sorry, I'd meant to reply to the same comment you did, making the same point really.

The name is going to be the first thing many people see, well before finding out the name has roots in another language or culture.

We can talk about how people should act, but the simple fact is a Swedish developer releasing SkrappostSlut or a Chinese developer releasing NiggaApp are probably not going to get a lot of traction in English markets and I’d expect similar issues the other direction. If those markets are important to your business, it’s probably wise to at least be aware of these sorts of issues.

A real-world example would be the Japanese university that changed the official English translation of its name to Kindai University; it's original name, using a direct transliteration, was Kinki University which apparently caused awkwardness.


There is also the Bonerowski Palace hotel in Krakow, formerly known as the Boner Palace.

wix.com reads as jerkoff.com in german

Mitsubishu Pajero --> means Wanker in Spanish.

Skoda Laura, a premium sedan was launched a decade or so ago in India. It was too late for the geniuses to learn that “laura” means dick in Hindi, a widely spoken language in northern parts of India.

This seem like a strawman. It's not about "snowflakes" getting offended. Everyone understands that words have different meanings in different languages. So if I read "you need to get fitta'" in an english gym ad I just giggle and don't get offended like "hrmph, is this gym implying that I don't get laid!". But, when I'm in the process of buying a car, that giggle might turn into a "I'll just buy another car then". Specifically thinking about Honda Fitta.

(Use the site to check what that word means in my native language)

Amazing that you're down-voted to -3 for expressing your opinion as a consumer. And it's kind of funny that people here are complaining about companies doing a thing which make perfect sense even from a purely financial perspective. Why choose a name that means something gross/weird/derogatory in the language of your consumers? Just bad for business.

I think HN has a subset of people who swarm to these sorts of threads and rage-downvote based on some sort of unusual meme (in the original sense of the word) that's spreading through their community.

But a lot of these names seem to be manufactured words that are intended to sound foreign and exotic, and thus cool.

For instance, Herman Miller has just introduced the "Motia" Gaming Desk [1]. They don't offer an explanation for what "Motia" means, and I can't seem to Google/DDG the meaning, because search results in my location are overwhelmed by the colloquial meaning of "motia" in Hindi and Urdu. That meaning is "cataract", an unfortunate name for a gaming desk that goes out of its way to reduce eye strain by sporting a matte, anti-glare finish.

[1] https://store.hermanmiller.com/gaming/motia-gaming-desk/2520...

Moti = Pearl in Hindi/Urdu

I think that's why it is used in cataract where eyes look like pearls.

So the meaning depends on which context you used the word in.

When I started learning web development I was told the possibly apocryphal story that Lego had one of the first websites, and they were of course tracking visitors, but they couldn't figure out why they didn't have any kids visiting from the U.S, as it turned out this was because at the end of every page they had the word "Slut" (the end) and American parents of course had bad language filters on their kids computers.

The corporation that just invested in a 100M global re-branding will for sure want to make sure their branding isn't obviously offensive in a certain market. It's a basic service that branding agencies offer. This could be an useful tool for those efforts.

So “SlutFan” might not be the best name for a company?

depends on which TLD it is registered.

The two replies to this comment are the entire problem, in a nutshell.

.xxx, presumably.


It means "StopTheDevil"

It doesn't.

Now, think about search. I know a guy who named his company using his last name and after 20-odd years got told by some customers that searching for it yields dick pics. He suspected a googlebomb... But no, it just happens that his name is a slang word for a penis in some Asian language.

I don’t think the problem is people getting offended. But sometimes a name can sound funny and it will be difficult for people taking it seriously. For example WebOS in Spanish sounds like “huevos” (eggs) and huevos it’s another way to say testicles at least in Mexico. I doubt too many people will get offended by that, but there will be a lot of jokes about your company or product.

The point of it is rather different. Classic example: Osram which roughly translates into "I will cover in shit" in Polish

And hugely successful in Poland despite and maybe even because of the name.

I think we became immunized and stopped noticing it in this context after product being so many years on shelves. Just like you stop noticing your nose in sight. Though such a threat from a lightbulb sounds scary :)

> it is even more important for people to respect other languages/cultures by not attributing their own independent negative connotations.

Is that what you really care about here? It sounds like feigned concern over a non-issue so you can throw shade on the product that doesn't align with your politics.

> an English speaker shouldn't get offended by a Swede using "slut" (Swedish root for stop/end).

No one has claimed otherwise. If a product is designed for international usage, the company should think about what is implied by the name of the company in minds of their potential customers.

In 2017 the Danish company Dong changed it's name to Ørsted https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%98rsted_(company) no idea why (although article says they changed "citing that DONG was inappropriate considering they had no oil and natural gas assets under ownership any more"), but I had noticed some stuff on BoingBoing just before making fun of the name.

The same company issued a long maturity (1000-year) bond, which on the trading floor became known as the Ultra Long Dong, and broke many many trading applications that used 64 bit nanosecond timestamps.

But using a letter hardly anyone outside Denmark knows is even worse. There's a good reason Mærsk isnt called Mærsk anymore.

Given that most Danes below the age of 50 are effectively bilingual they were also made fun of here in Denmark. Also "dong" in danish is ofc. onomatopoeia for the sound that a large bell or gong makes when struck, which in itself was a bit silly even without the english meaning.

Since you mentioned Sweden

Sweden's Lund University admin snaps after being trolled by Indians on Facebook - https://www.freepressjournal.in/world/swedens-lund-universit...

I wasn't aware of the meaning of "snaps" as "asks people politely to refrain from harassment".

So an admin at a university (probably a person who should be sensitive to PR) should have said "You #$&*^$ #^#%&%$#$@, stop doing this already!" to make it look like a true "snap"?

Yes, he'd have to do something very uncharacteristic of the position, otherwise it's an entirely appropriate and reasonable reaction, which isn't really what one would characterize a "snap".

I think I am coming from the perspective that incessant trolling forced them to issue an official response and that's "snap enough" for me.

You seem to be coming from the point of view (that's my assumption based on our short comments; it maybe something else) that it doesn't meet the literal dictionary meaning so it's not a snap - which I disagree with.

I think that's all to it.

It's not only that it doesn't mean the dictionary definition. There's no usage - colloquial or otherwise - of that term I'm familiar that fits the situation.

It's disingenuous at best to refer to the response as "snapping".

Possibly, I think "snap" is there purely for clickbait reasons, to imply a much larger reaction so we click through. "Responds" would have been more accurate, though not as converty.

Funny seeing this site here again!

I made WordSafety five years ago as a two-night quickie side project:


It is sadly neglected by me since then. Fortunately the code is extremely simple so it just runs with zero maintenance.

Actually I'd love to hand this site over to someone who would take better care of it than me. If that's you, drop me an email or Twitter DM (details in my HN bio).

I was about to complain about the lack of https. But for a five year old side-project you may be forgiven :wink:.

Apparently "G8" when pronounced in Chinese sounds like slang for "penis". [0] Canon had a popular line of cameras named G1/G2 etc - they skipped from G7 to G9. [1] HP also had servers with model names and generations that were also abbreviated as Gx, so HP ProLiant DL380p G7. They changed their naming convention to Genx when the 8th generation came up, so Gen8 instead of G8.

(Fun side story - apparently HP names their servers this way for government procurement contracts. So the contract can be written specifying a "HP DL380p server" and HP can supply whatever the latest generation is. Even if it shares nothing in common with the previous generation other than a name.)

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_Chinese_profanity#Pen... [1] https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/2448027 [2] http://up2v.nl/2012/08/10/wonder-why-hp-did-use-gen8-instead...

And also the iPhone 7's slogan "This is 7" means "This is penis" in Hong Kong.


>The iPhone 7's "This is 7" slogan has been misunderstood when translated to certain other languages. The phone's slogan in Mainland China is "7, is here;" (Chinese: 7,在此; pinyin: 7, zài cǐ), while in Hong Kong, its slogan is, "This, is iPhone 7;" (Chinese: 這,就是iPhone 7; Jyutping: ze5, zau6 si6 iPhone 7).

>In Cantonese, the local language of Hong Kong, the slogan could be mistakenly interpreted as "This is penis". "Tsat", (Chinese: 杘; Jyutping: cat6), is a common slang term for an erect penis, and "seven", (Chinese: 七; Jyutping: cat1), which varies only in tone, is often used as a euphemism.

Marvel's "Knull" is a fun example that the website is actually "catching": https://www.svt.se/kultur/starka-reaktioner-pa-nya-marvelsku...

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knull_(comics)#Reception

Although I've been recommending WordSafety tool for quite a while now[1] for 'cultural-linguistic check' when naming a startup/product, we need to consider other factors as well like current events.

Of course, it wouldn't be wise to name our product 'Corona' now(probably ever?); Let me give you another epidemic related example -

"Tata Motors, an automobile company which owns Jaguar, Land Rover were about to release their much anticipated car in 2016 called ‘Zica’ just when Zika virus epidemic struck the world; Tata motors promptly rebranded their car to Tiago before release." [2]



Plenty of Toyota Isis' driving around my country.

There is a Danish company that specializes in sugar free products that was named Isis. Initially they sold ice cream or in Danish 'is' hence the name.

After 23 years they changed their name to Easis quoting problems with building new customer relations especially abroad.

Name change announcement (in Danish): https://www.easis.dk/isis-er-lagt-paa-hylden

Also ISIS audiobooks, a genuine audiobook publishing company (not sure if they still exist). They were the ones behind a few audiobooks in the discworld series.

I actually got that name in a Windows notification once, of course, when people were looking at my screen. That was a lot of explaining.

Depending upon the country, it could be either favourable or unfavourable as a 'brand name'!

I can swear in 4 languages and it was all missing. And there is no option to submit a pull request.

This would work much beetter as open source project.

Then make your own! And get off the lawn.


One of my favorite example of this kind of oversight is the audi "e-tron" : in french, an "étron" is literally a turd... (it seems that this website doesn't catch it yet though)

I tried the classic blunder "Buick Lacrosse" which sounds exactly like "Buick the Scam" in Québécois. This tool does not understand Québécois.

Buick's a pretty disgusting onomatopoeia in and of itself. As in "Ordering Buicks over the big white porcelain telephone".

This site, as with so many that work on this problem, totally fails at American slang (basically anything from twitch chat). This is what one of my former jobs called the middle schooler test.

Find a colleague with a 12 year old, and give them a folder with the name in big letters on the front to leave on the kitchen table. You'll find out the next day if the name's safe.

This is probably most useful for people who speak English as a second language trying to name something in English because it's de facto our current lingua franca and gets called globish for that reason.

I've given people on HN feedback a few times about how "that doesn't mean what you think it means and sounds to me like a terrible name for this project and here's why." A website checking for things like this is maybe a reasonable first step for some people, but if you aren't somewhat fluent in the culture and language of your primary target audience, a website like this is likely insufficient. You should get some "live" feedback as well if you aren't sure, preferably from someone like me who is prone to being too truthful to be good. People with better "manners" may not tell you honestly "Ha! That sounds like (offensive as all hell phrase) to me!"

Good one. I will always remember the name of the then US first lady. Laura Bush. Laura in my native language means Penis.

What language is that? It’s a really common English name.

let me Google that for you. . . . working . . . . . Punjabi

It's a common word in a bunch of related languages: Punjabi, Hindi, Marathi, Bangla. It seems to be a tadbhava form of Sanskrit "lakuTa" meaning 'stick'.

Make someone a nett hot Latte in German.

And Bush in American slang means pubic hair!

Funnily enough, Dick is a common short form of Richard!

How does this work with words or phrases that have two different meanings in different languages, offensive in one but a common phrase or something in another?

A friend of mine from the Philippines speaks Cebuano and Olango, two different visaya dialects, they can mostly understand eachother, but there's phrases or words in each dialect that translates to offensive things in the other dialect, apparently this is a common source of confusion between speakers of only one of the two languages with a speaker of the opposite dialect.

I put in my favorite poorly conceived product name: chocolate stool

It warned me that it contained the words 'ho' and 'chola'. Not really the result I expected.

As a non-native speaker, this website is useful to learn English slang.

A somewhat funny story happened at a company I used to work.

Due to legal concerns, a product had to be renamed and the sales and marketing team spent weeks looking for a new name.

Those teams were basically entirely native English speakers in a non English speaking country. Despite having lived there for a few years, none of them had more than a basic proficiency in the local language.

Anyway, they sent a company wide email, proudly announcing the new name, and asking if anyone saw any issue with it. It happened to be a pretty embarrassing word in the local language, which everyone had on their mind, but no one dared say anything, until the big mouth in the company just sent the item in question as a picture to every one in the company.

A different name was promptly announced.

I hope the company appropriately recognized the value of the big mouth, instead of chastising him for his form while tolerating all the other people who knew but chose to say nothing.

What was the name, and what country? if you can share

No results for git[1], although I suppose English may not be considered a foreign language.

1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/git

I entered the noun form of a common English obscenity and it caught it.

Doesn't look like it covers 那个 (pronounced nah-gu in Mandarin). I had a black friend in college who told me about how deeply offended he was when he heard his Chinese girlfriend's parents saying this over & over...

Is this a loan word from the west?

No, it is a native Chinese word that predates European language influences.

那個 = that thing

那些 = those (plural)

那裡 = that place / over there

那天 = that day

那種 = that kind of

One of my favorites: syntax (english) -> sintaxis (spanish) -> sin taxis (english)

I think most of these are occasionally amusing but not problematic. I've been living in Miami and I find that different words in different languages sharing the same spelling are as irrelevant as word meanings changing by adding only one letter. If I were to reply when someone said "Do you like my hat?" with "Hmm, I dunno, if I add an e to that it will spell 'hate'", that would be ridiculous and annoying. Similar with interpreting one language as another.

Check these comments from the earlier post from 2015: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10117297

Nice service, it's would be pertty useful when it can identify this kind of issues before it's too late.

One of the most used word in Mandarin is '那个' which means 'that' and 'Um...', and it sounds like the N-word.

Another frequently used word is '会', which means both 'is able to' or 'is going to', and it sounds like 'хуй' which means penis. I heard some Russian chuckles when we say this word, though I found that funny too when I realized.

"Nahuaer" seems like a nice brand of sausages.

Theoretically it should start with 'Nah', but most people starts with 'Neh' unless they're professional narrators.

This is potentially dangerous, as it gives a false sense of security. It appears to completely ignore slang. I just plugged in "slapper" and got a green light, for instance. I notice they have a cautionary note on the site, so...?

My favourite story about this sort of thing relates to a computer game which was very popular in its home territory (the UK) but struggled when released abroad (Germany, I think?) as its name was a slang term for "rent boy". IIRC this was the game "Midwinter".

Yeah it also doesn't think that knackered or felch are problematic either

What language are those slang in?

British English

Today I learned a new word for something I was not aware was enough of a thing that it needed a word for it…

This is a cool idea, just needs a bit of tweaking.

For example, 'bubs' is flagged as a partial match of 'boob'. 'bewbs' finds no such match and is deemed safe.

Nice idea. But doesn't seem very robust.

I searched for "fallus" and it gave me a nonsensical answer instead of the "phallus" that I expected.

Wix.com has this problem in Germany, I think they handled it rather gracefully: https://youtu.be/IddnMutPgTI

IMHO A society that can handle sensitivities with good hearted humor is more robust and inclusive than other alternatives.

It worked quite well on "Kurve" (German for "curve"). Made us chuckle as youths coming from Poland.

However the problem often is that you don't know which word to look up in the first place. The possibility to paste a whole text and have it look for "problematic words" would be more useful.

I was recently involved in an unwanted meaning issue where my app icon looked like "SB", which I learned is offensive to some Chinese speakers. Too bad it doesn't come up in wordsafety.com. Not that I'd have thought to look…

OK, let's try this:

mokkori -> safe!

Uh... hmm... mukkuri -> danger!

Matched "kur," which according to the site is "Russian: penis (Bulgarian)." Not sure if the site is claiming that it's the Russian word for Bulgarian penis or what.

How about Numbers? Did’nt Apple have a low sales rate of the Performa 4400 in Japan due to 4 having a bad meaning?

Four is an unlucky number in Japan because it sounds like shi (死 – death). This is why there are two readings for the number four, shi and yon. Whenever possible, people try to avoid using the deathy one.


We can also add in alphanumeric sequences.

An example of this was Toyota launching the 'MR2' in France, which phonetically spells out something not very marketable.

Did a few attempts using slang of European languages. Lacks words that are widely understood by the general population and have bad meanings.

Not as good as Google... At least as regards Hungarian (e.g. fasz). Google is generally okay for this, so not sure I understand the selling point.

Note that HTML is not escaped correctly. I don't think this can lead to XSS because <> is removed and the word is not echoed inside any tag attribute, but escaping &, ', and " might be something to fix regardless.

Obligatory snowman: https://dro.pm/a.png

Who else immediately plugged in "nova"?

I confidently assert that not a single English speaker would think something literally wouldn't work because it was called Cantrun or Nogo. Which aren't even good examples because "nova" isn't a novel word to Spanish-speakers.

Snopes has a decent explanation. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/chevrolet-nova-name-spanis...

What's the context I'm missing here?

There's a popular legend about Chevy's Nova selling poorly in Spanish-speaking countries, since "va" means "go," so "nova" is literally "no-go."

Not a native Spanish speaker, so I'm prepared to be wrong here, but I would translate "no va" as "doesn't go." Which is even worse

There's a similar story in France for the Audi e-tron, when pronounced, the name just means kind-of "shitty". That did not help sales for sure...

I apologise if this is off topic, but I swear 5 minutes ago in the shower I was wondering what company made that car. Thanks for saving me the search.

In on language it means, "big explosion"

In another it means, "no go"

In all languages it means, "smells like gasoline"

The best names, of course, do tend to evoke complex emotions. 'Virgin', and 'Plan B' are the classic example in the branding industry.

CockroachDB is my favorite in tech, and also my favorite example of how tech people and their faux rationality are useless for tasks involving creativity and imagination.

I put in “Nova” first since that’s the best instance of this problem I know, only to learn that it’s an urban legend!

This reminds me of an incident from my teen years. I was at a party that had a bunch of German exchange students, and at one point we found them laughing around a bottle of Sierra Mist (Pepsi's Sprite-alike). Turns out "mist" doesn't sound very refreshing in German :)

Great idea! However the list is not yet complete, so not to be trusted completely. The words “Gus/Guz” and “Zadnik” have negative meanings in Bulgarian, but don’t seem to show. If you enable crowdsourced additions to the dictionary, you may complete the list fairly quickly.

I’m not sure what it’s referring to when it says ‘Malay’ (that could mean a few different things) but it’s definitely missing some Malay words.

Edit: I think it’s referring to Malaysian/Malayu but it doesn’t pick up a lot of the Malaysian cuss words that I tested on it (like the F word...)

Great idea. I’ve heard 2 funny examples of this from Spanish friends.

Apparently ford released a car in Spain a while back that sounded like ‘wanker’ in Spanish. Something like Panjero - maybe someone else can remember precisely.

And also Nescafe sounds a lot like No es Cafe (not coffee)

The car is the Mitsubishi Pajero, renamed to "Montero" in Spanish-speaking countries.

Thanks for the corrections!

Failed to identify the Italian word 'scopa' - which means 'broom', but also something very NSFW.

It did recognize 'Sega' as an Italian term for a bout of self-abuse. However, that ship sailed a long time ago.

Darn, my current project starts with "ass" in bengali and "butt" in German

oh well

I really feel like Mitsubishi should have checked here before releasing the Pajero

Gives a lot of false positives for words that don't match at all.

"aka" -> cha no.

I have yet to find a word that gives a long list of false-positives, though. If you get any false-positives, it's usually not more than 2 or maybe 3. If you have a couple potential brand/product names in mind, looking through those hits and using your own judgement isn't a big deal.

I'd rather it remains like this, false-positive, than having it false-negative on something bad.


1 Result:

>“ho”, English: prostitute.

>Match inside word, may not be a problem.

Cool, I’ll go with that for my next website.

You are missing an E in arse..

yes but to be fair such a lookup should be fuzzy, i mean arshole isn't exactly a great brand name in any English speaking location.

I typed in a former internal codename from my employer that I know was replaced because of an obvious unfortunate meaning in Chinese, and WordSafety said nothing.

I think this tool only working for popular languages like european and some asian languages. None of the middle eastern languages are checked at all.

"kiss" is there for Arabic.... What other words can you think of

Doesn't seem to pick up on "Cognos" being similar to "coño", but it did pick up on the famous example of the "Ascona" car.

Phew, I can be safe knowing that my lifestyle brand “smelly toilet mess Isis untrustworthy company” does not have any negative meaning in English.

Don't do the French cheers "chin chin" in Japan... You'll get some laughs.

The site gets it right. Also kiss in Arabic is quite bad

Sadly no Easter egg for "bitenuker" (bêteneuker)

Caused GE to lose the European market for their pocket microwave back in 2009.

I think it’s crowd sourced answers with our help. Looked up a common one and it wasn’t there. Added it to help, of course

Looks to be missing quite a lot of offensive content from the searches I tried, things that bit me in the past.

Mongodb comes to mind. "mongo" is a slur in german for handicapped (mostly down syndrome) people.

Doesn't work for Thai at all. I tried the top 10 offensive words and their most common Romanizations.

I just typed Sex and it said it’s fine... I don’t think the site is very good

In which culture is sex a bad thing?

I didn’t say it was? But I’m pretty sure it makes the site useless

Maybe Amish? But they are really unlikely to buy your products!

Interesting "china" is flagged but "pen island" is not

"Knull is coming"

'sweat' remains a popular drinks brand despite such concerns.

We used to have Appy which means shit in Kerala, India. Somehow a TV campaign made us say App-ee instead of the bad upp-e and its popular since then.

Didn't work when adding a space between syllables.

Peace among worlds!

It supports Hindi words as well. Great stuff.

Does it? I tried “goo” meaning shit and it didn’t return anything.

i tried bhosad and it approved

too nad it doesn't do phonetics. it could catch

hank ewlay

shu pameyla

and funnily Felicity Shagwell is only flagged for 'lik'

Great service. Interesting finds.


“kher” Russian: dick

Always check for unwanted anagrams, too.

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