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Kraft's Name Brings New Meaning to Snacking in Russia

Mondelez International Comes Close to Local Translation for Oral Sex

By Published on . 4

The name that Kraft Foods chose for its global snack spinoff -- Mondelez International -- has sparked plenty of comment and snark across the country.

In Russia, though, it may trigger snickers, according to Crain's Chicago Business.

Kraft says it chose the mashup to connote worldwide deliciousness. (Monde means "world" in French, and delez, with a long E in the final syllable, is a play on "delish.") But pronounced "mohn-dah-LEEZ," the name means something else to Russian speakers, say those fluent in its language and slang. Crain's was tipped off to the double entendre by a reader who communicated with the publication saying "no offense, but this is bad" before explaining that the name sounds like the Russian term for an oral-sex act.

The publication then ran the term by a few other people who speak the Slavic language, and more knew it as the insult than not. The offending term, manda, is on Wikipedia's Russian profanity page.

"What they say is perfectly true," confirmed Irwin Weil, professor of Russian language, literature and music at Northwestern University. "There is a rather vulgar word, 'manda.' [Mondelez] includes the sound of that word," he said, adding that Kraft probably "had no idea when pronounced it means a Russian vulgar word." The second half of the name roughly translates into the sex act, say Russian speakers.

It's an unfortunate slip for Kraft, considering its growing presence in Russia with products largely aimed at women. It shows the minefield of potential missteps in applying a single name across a multitude of countries. "If you miss a national or cultural translation, you end up in this precise situation," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys.

Kraft said it properly vetted the new name. "We did extensive due diligence in testing the name," Kraft spokesman John Simley said. "That included two rounds of focus groups in 28 languages, including Russian. We determined misinterpretations in any of the languages to be low-risk."

Shareholders will have final approval of the Mondelez name when they meet May 23.

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