Coloring the United States to suffocation

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The Zeesea cosmetics company, based in China, is advertising three new sets of products "X the British Museum", in a relationship that they call a "partnership" and a "cobranding  product line": "Mysterious Egypt", "Alice in Wonderland", and "Angel Cupid".

I'm guessing that the British Museum's role in the partnership did not extend to input on the English names of the products. For example, the Alice in Wonderland Mascara collection includes ten colors, one of which is "Rust Red", advertised with the tag line "After coloring the United States to suffocation can be sweet super A strawberry jam":

Perhaps "coloring the United States to suffocation" is an attempt to render something that should have come out as "leaving America breathless with color", but I haven't been able to find the original (presumably Chinese) version. Although the web page offers a choice of "Deutsch, English, français [sic], Italiano, 日本語, and 한국어", the image text is always in English, at least for me.

The other nine colors are less sinister-sounding, if not always syntactically or semantically coherent:

  • * Brightest Star *  Warm golden glitter shines like the sunshine
  • * Aurora *  Polarized lame mascara first appearance taking stars
  • * Burgundy Wine *  Elegant wine color vague atmosphere of tipsy
  • * Black *  Hand a necessary color nature does not lose temperament
  • * Marmalade *  Summer is full of energy and marmalade
  • * Grey Blue *  No fireworks morandi immortal color
  • * Matcha Green *  It's a must-have for matcha enthusiasts
  • * Fudge Brown *  Cream chocolate unlock deep day miscellaneous makeup
  • * Silver Diamonds *  The little stars in her eyes broken into fairy tears



  1. Kenny Easwaran said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 11:57 am

    I can sort of understand how a company would just run a slogan through a machine translation program and end up with ungrammatical English. But how did they end up with an incorrect spelling of "matcha" in the tagline for a color that has the correct spelling of "matcha"?

    [(myl) That was my typing error — or rather, the output of Apple's butterfly keyboard, which returns between zzerrro and ffffor characters for every kkey strike.]

  2. ycx said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 12:33 pm

    I found their official store on Tmall (a Chinese e-commerce site similar to Amazon). Their mascara product line was also there with matching colours, but it was missing the "British Museum" or "Alice" branding and the Chinese descriptions didn't appear to correspond to the confusing English descriptions. Perhaps it's a different advertising campaign that's not on their Tmall store yet.!!1773211220.jpg

  3. ycx said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 12:51 pm

    Looks like I found the identical marketing campaign on

    The original Chinese text for the "United States" line in the article title contains a significant amount of slang and is difficult to translate.

    上眼美到犯规, 可甜可御超A草莓酱

    My attempt at translating:

    It's so beautiful that it breaks the rules when applied to the eye, it's sweeter than Superior A Grade strawberry jam

    [(myl) You win the translation prize — Zeesea and the British Museum should hire you immediately.

    Here's what Google Translate does with the tag line:

    And Bing Translate:

    And Systran:

    And Yandex:

    I guess 犯规 "foul, break the rules" is kind of like English "sick" and "ill" as enthusiastically positive evaluations. ]

  4. John Swindle said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 2:50 pm

    The reference to the United States is easy: 美 mei3 means 'beautiful' but can also be short for 'America'. They picked the wrong meaning. Coloring and suffocation? No idea. Thanks to ycx for explicating strawberry jam.

  5. David C. said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 6:13 pm

    I didn't know what 可甜可御 meant and ended up learning more Internet slang than I thought I would. It's an adaptation of 可盐可甜, roughly a person who has both a likeable and a cool personality. 御 comes from 御姐, from the Japanese 御姉 ("sister“), here meaning a mature, cool-headed young woman. Put together, it's a product where you can create the effect of being sweet/cute or cool/mature.

    "Suffocation" probably comes from something like 美得要死 ("beautiful to death", i.e. so beautiful).

    Not sure that français warrants a [sic] – when referring to the language, the initial letter is supposed to be lower case.

  6. Alan Walker said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 7:36 pm

    The silver diamonds description could have been drafted by the P.G. Wodehouse character Madeline Bassett: "Don't you remember? 'Every time a fairy sheds a tear, a wee bit star is born in the Milky Way.' Have you ever thought that, Mr. Wooster?" (Right Ho, Jeeves)

  7. Mark P said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 10:37 pm

    The description of Silver Diamonds has a whimsically poetic sound to it. For some reason it reminds me of butterfly names.

  8. Bruce Rusk said,

    August 10, 2020 @ 10:48 pm

    No [sic] for français–language names are not capitalized in French.

  9. Peter Taylor said,

    August 11, 2020 @ 1:59 am

    I'm dubious that this "partnership" with the British Museum extends as far as the British Museum having heard of it. I can't find this mascara line in the museum's online shop, nor any reference to Zeesea except in cached search results where other people have looked for it.

  10. Rodger C said,

    August 11, 2020 @ 6:51 am

    To me the whole list has a vague atmosphere of tipsy.

  11. Robert Coren said,

    August 11, 2020 @ 8:39 am

    One hopes that the characterization of "Aurora" results from a lack of the acute accent in the font being used.

  12. RachelP said,

    August 12, 2020 @ 1:04 am

    As is often the way, some of these odd translations end up being rather delightful and poetic. I think a summer full of energy and marmalade sounds lovely, especially if it was also in a vague atmosphere of tipsy. I might break into fairy tears.

  13. Glomble Timsden said,

    August 15, 2020 @ 9:28 pm

    "rust red" and "coloring the United States to suffocation" almost sounds like a political statement!

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