Once upon a time… hmm… this isn’t a fairy tale. So, it was a dark and stormy night… no… not a mystery either. How about: One hot spring day in Texas the marketing department of a major wireless phone manufacturer converged to do some impromptu linguistic research via the internet. Why you ask? Feel free to ask…
Fifteen minutes earlier, the graphic designer of the marketing department brought me a calendar that included a picture of a young model christened the “swamp thing” by that same graphic designer. I think it was because of her wild hairdo in the photo, but she appealed to me in an earlier release of the poster – before it was a calendar.
Perhaps I should back up a little in this story and give some background on the marketing department. I’ll call the graphic designer Val. That works especially since it is her name. See… this isn’t a fairy tale. Her manager was a young lady named Pam, and Pam’s boss was Cuban born and raised in Miami. Let’s call him Jose. Yes, he was bilingual – English/Spanish to be exact.
Being a business enterprise, the marketing department was tasked with creating a campaign to break into the Mexican cell phone market. The release of the latest version of cell phones included a very successful marketing blitz that used the “swamp thing’s” image on marketing materials. Jose proclaimed his marketing underlings: “Go forth and modify our very successful marketing campaign and gear it towards the Mexican marketplace.” The marketing department went forth and began planning the necessary changes.
Val, the graphic designer, was given the assignment to create a calendar using the already successful “swamp thing” image holding the cell phone. All she had to do to the original print was add the calendar at the bottom… 12 months… 365 days…. simple. Jose gave Val the translation to the English verbiage used on the original campaign poster. Val fit it in nicely into the new design. Remember, Jose speaks and writes Spanish. That is a very useful attribute for the marketing leader when entering a Spanish speaking market.
Jose said: “Val, add a calendar to the bottom.” Val added a calendar to the bottom. She did her research and translated every month from English to Spanish: January to enero, February to febrero, etc. Val’s manager approved the new design. Jose gave final approval. The new poster/calendar was sent to the printer with an order of 10,000 copies.
When the job came back from the printer, Val gave me the very first copy of the poster/calendar. I was quite honored. Thank you. Anyway, I read it and did my own translation. I spent a couple years in Spain on active duty military assignment – not to mention two years of Spanish in high school and six hours, two classes, in college. I scanned down to the calendar and I read: enero, febrero, marzo, abril, … uh… puede, juno…backup. Puede?
That didn’t look right. It was one of those moments when you know it just has to be right because it was there in print, but you know it isn’t. Thanks to Al Gore I was able to research the translations to the months of the year on the internet.. just as Val had done. I typed in May and it came up with the Spanish translation “mayo” just as I knew it would.I typed it in again, but for some odd reason the shift key didn’t take and it came back “puede.”Oh…. Now I know what happened. “Puede” is more like “can” than “may,” but it is still a valid translation of the word “may.”It just isn’t the month of May.
I took the bad news to the marketing department and they were hesitant to believe me. After all, the boss is Cuban and he approved the job. They had 10,000 calendars that needed to go out that day and they couldn’t be ALL wrong.I went back to my desk and printed off the translation I found along with the link. When I got back to the marketing department, everyone was huddled around the manager’s computer trying to find the translation. Maybe they didn’t completely think I was blowing smoke this time after all, not that I would ever lead anyone astray with an off the wall comment or joke or some attempt at humor.
This scene of chaos continued for a few minutes and then it happened. It was almost like a blinding flash of light along with a clapping sound…You know that “I coulda had a V-8” forehead slap. The marketing department, unrehearsed and in unison, slapped their foreheads and said, “Oh geez… Cinco de Mayo!”…and that was the birth of the “Cinco de Puede” celebration.
The bottom of the poster that was the calendar section was cut off. The remainder of the poster that included the now famous “swamp thing” model was distributed to the Latin American market.