RTC If you get a raised eyebrow or a sideways glance in some corners when you ask for Heinz’s new condiment Mayochup, you can hardly blame folks.
Mayochup, a portmanteau of mayonnaise and ketchup, means something decidedly less tasty, or tasteful for that matter, in a dialect of the language spoken by the Cree, a large First Nations group.
As many as 200,000 Cree live in Canada, though not all of them speak a dialect of the language, according to Arok Wolvengrey, professor of Algonquian languages and linguistics at First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Cree also live in the north-central part of the U.S., though no American Cree have been vocal so far about the Mayochup misstep.
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“The Cree have a wonderful sense of humor and they’re known for it,” he said. “They find it very amusing that anyone would name their product that….You’re going to run into words perfectly innocuous in one language and happen to sound very bizarre in another. This time, it happened to be in Cree.”
Wolvengrey explained “mêyiwi”, pronounced MAY-yo or MAY-yoo, means “pertaining to excrement” or “s–tty,” while “câp,” pronounced CHAHP, means “eye(s)” or “face,” depending on whether it’s the Plains Cree or Swampy Cree dialect.
The Mayochup mishap was initially flagged by Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon, of the Mushkegowuk Council of Cree First Nations in the James Bay region of northern Ontario.
It doesn’t appear that people at Heinz headquarters are muttering “mêyiwi” under their breath, though.
“We have heard about the unfortunate translation of Mayochup in Cree, and the only thing we want our consumers, whichever dialect of Cree they speak, to have on their faces this summer is our newest condiment mash-up,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Heinz initially launched its ketchup-mayo mixture in the U.S. in April 2018. A year later, the company followed up with Mayocue and Mayomust, which mix mayonnaise with barbecue sauce and mustard, respectively.
This isn’t the first time a company has run into product-name trouble overseas, such as the legend of the Chevy Nova, which could sound like “no go” to some Spanish-speakers. Other global branding issues include Ikea furniture names that reference sex to shoppers in Thailand; Peugeot or Biao zhi in Chinese, which sounds very close to the slang word for “prostitute,” or biaozi, in the southern part of the country; and the logo on the Air Max 270 some people said looked like the Arabic word for “Allah.”
“It’s just laziness, sloppiness or a lack of worldliness,” Miami-based branding expert Bruce Turkel said of the Heinz hiccup, explaining that companies often hire translation firms to vet words in other languages. “With the Internet today, how you could not do that research? It’s just silly.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer