Annals of cross-linguistic advertising blunders

« previous post | next post »

Or maybe it was a genius move — the coverage hasn't quantified the effect on brand recognition and sales.  Jelisa Castrodate, "Mountain Dew Mistakenly Tells All of Scotland to Masturbate for 'Epic Thrills'", Vice 8/29/2018:

Not terribly long ago, The Scotsman newspaper printed a helpful list of 15 words that have alternate meanings in Scotland. It pointed out that pudding has nothing to do with a Jell-O mix but is often a sausage made from pigs’ blood, that messages means grocery shopping, and that if you mince something, you’ve pretty much effed it up.

Unfortunately, the paper failed to include chug on the list, which is why Mountain Dew UK is being dragged across Scottish Twitter for inadvertently telling everyone that they’re chronic masturbators.

On Monday, Mountain Dew UK tweeted a .gif of a visibly sweating twentysomething downing a bottle of neon yellow soda. (He’s tanning it, if you want to dust off another piece of Scottish vocab.) “Epic Thrills Start with a Chug,” it says—which is why everyone from Elgin to Dumfries started giggling to themselves.

“You guys didn’t really consult anyone from Scotland on this UK wide marketing campaign eh?” one presumably Scottish person responded. And no, no they did not: because if they did, they would’ve known that ‘chug’ is slang for masturbation. (Epic thrills may or may not start out that way, but it’s probably best if that’s not how you try to sell a soft drink.)

One of the responses, showing the original picture:

[h/t Wendy Grossman]



  1. Kordo said,

    September 2, 2018 @ 4:08 pm

    I'm sorry for not mentioning this before, but I love this blog…

  2. Jake Wildstrom said,

    September 2, 2018 @ 4:23 pm

    This is awfully reminiscent of the UK campaigns for Dasani which touted it variously as "full of spunk" and "bottled spunk".

  3. Robbie said,

    September 2, 2018 @ 4:28 pm

    Reminds me of the (very short-lived) campaign to bring Dasani bottled water to the UK. The main reason it failed was because it became generally known that the stuff was basically tap water, but advertising Dasani as "bottled spunk" and "full of spunk" certainly didn't help.

  4. Sawney said,

    September 2, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

    Nike obviously didn’t do any market research in West Central Scotland either with the launch of their 'Bowfin' range of shoes. ‘Bowfin’ [pronounced /baʊfɪn/] in the local patois means vomit-inducingly smelly.

  5. asctt said,

    September 2, 2018 @ 8:44 pm

    There seems to be awareness here:

    Seems like an unnecessary challenge to call your product shyte when it is brown and something you are supposed to eat.

  6. Rachael said,

    September 3, 2018 @ 3:31 am

    I expect it's deliberate. It looks like part of the tradition of advertising that works by saying something naughty while maintaining plausible deniability, like FCUK, or Shyte chocolate, as mentioned by another commenter. (With Shyte, I noticed that some of the slogans were very well crafted to make multiple scatological references, and there were still oblivious commenters thinking the whole thing was unintentional.)

  7. David Morris said,

    September 3, 2018 @ 6:40 am

    Or, for variation, Chugs finish with epic thrills.

  8. chris said,

    September 3, 2018 @ 10:05 pm

    If there's this much hilarity over an ad where the word only appears once, how do Scots react to the American TV and movie scenes where a crowd is egging on a character to chug (an alcoholic beverage) while they watch, by rhythmically chanting "chug, chug, chug" in unison?

  9. David said,

    September 4, 2018 @ 8:21 am

    On the western shore of the Atlantic, where "jiffy" is not slang for "condom," the sight of a "Jiffy Lube" quick oil-change shop has been known to cause hysterical laughter among visiting Brits.

RSS feed for comments on this post