The Woof Commences Now

So Microsoft is said to have a half-billion dollar budget to advertise its new Windows Vista operating system.

And they came up with the following, inspiring slogan: “The Wow Starts Now”, next to the new, rounded Windows “Start” button.

Umm, OK.

I couldn’t help remembering that when the first iMac came out, you know, the blue, bubble-shaped original iMac, that’s what Apple used on its Web site: A nice picture of the UFO-like iMac, and the word Wow.

Either it’s a coincidence (the original iMac came out in 1998), or the lucky ad agency is making a comfortable profit.

Besides, the iMac was a true departure from the status quo. It wasn’t beige, it wasn’t rectangular, it didn’t even have a floppy-disk drive for god’s sake!

Vista, on the other hand, brings you a brand new shiny, over-the-top graphical user-interface, Aero (a bad-taste copy of Apple’s Mac OS X graphical user-interface, Aqua) but not much else. It requires a recent PC (or Mac), and has some embarrassing compatibility problems (like not being able to run Microsoft’s own XP help files).

It was supposed to be a radically new OS under the hood, but after several years of delays, all the revolutionary under-the-hood stuff was jettisoned. It may be better than Windows XP, but that’s not saying much. And in some ways, it’s worse. Much worse.

Anyway, let me get to the point. the other day, strolling by the PC City store in my (Parisian) neighborhood, I noticed a French version of the slogan on a big Vista poster.

They translated “Wow” into “Wouah”. “Wow” doesn’t exist in French, so they came up with a bad phonetic equivalent which is hard to parse. Remove the leading “W” and you get “Ouah”, the French translation of “Woof”, the barking of a dog.

And they translated the rest of the slogan, to “L’expérience ‘Wouah’ commence maintenant. Now, that “commence” is an unfortunate choice, because the Windows “Start” button is labeled “Démarrer” in the French version of Windows, and not “Commencer”.

To be fair, most Ad agencies use Macs, so maybe they failed to catch the reference, and went with what sounded good. But what about Microsoft France? Didn’t they notice?

Or maybe I’m reading too much into the use of the word “Start”. Maybe the reference to the Start button was unintentional in the English version, in which case the French version is fine.

It’s just that I would have thought that half a Billion dollars would at least buy you a pun.

08. March 2007 by sknob
Destination: Geekiness, Lost in translation, Surfin', User Interface Design | Leave a comment

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