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IKEA hopes nothing found in translation

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BANGKOK, June 9 (UPI) -- A language squad spent four years vetting IKEA product names before the Swedish furniture giant opened its new Bangkok store last year.

Natthita Opaspipat, a member of the team, told The Wall Street Journal IKEA's Swedish names "bring a unique character to the brand." But she said misunderstandings are easy when they are heard by Thai speakers.

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"We've got to be careful," Natthita said. "Some of them can be, well, a little rude."

The Redalen bed, for example, named after a town in Norway, sounds like a Thai term for sexual intercourse. Part of the name of the Jattebra plant pot also sounds like a term for the sex act, a term not used in polite society.

IKEA's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, began using children's names and place names in the Scandinavian countries for his products in the 1950s because he himself was dyslexic. While the company's sources of names have expanded along with its product line, it is still Scandinavian.

Natthita said the team has tried to keep as close to the original as possible, sometimes only changing a single letter. Team members have to consider both how a word sounds and what it will look like when spelled out in Thai's cursive alphabet.

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