The movie industry is now clearly a global business. As illustrated by recent releases, a blockbuster cannot afford to confuse or potentially offend a foreign market. When we talk about 'foreign markets', usually we refer to THE foreign market: China, however it has been revealed James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could have caused controversy in a slightly smaller country... Iceland.
On a post on his Facebook page, director Gunn revealed he was asked not to include a certain obscure alien race in the sequel, as its name meant something slightly un-PG 13 in Icelandic.
Gunn hoped to include the 'Sneepers' - a highly advanced alien civilization - in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. That was, however, until he found out 'sneeper' in Icelandic means 'clitoris'. He explained:
While writing Guardians scripts I like to use the names of characters from the comics as much as possible - it makes watching the movie more fun for longtime Marvel fans (one of whom is me). Characters like Kraglin, The Broker, Bereet, and Garthan Saal all originally appeared in the comics, albeit sometimes in very different incarnations. Every name I use I have to run through the Marvel legal department. Lately, in the service of building out the Marvel cosmic side of the universe, I've been trying to clear names of alien species we see in the background. It's always a bummer when I can't use a name, usually because Fox or Sony or Hasbro or whomever owns the rights. But today I received a brand new reason for being advised against calling one of the alien species "Sneepers."
"Sneeper is a word for clitoris in Icelandic."
Well, it turns out he's not joking. Sneeper, or more accurately sneepur, snipur or snípur is indeed the Icleandic word for the clitoris. However, from the sounds of Icelandic commenters, the word is hardly grotesque and offensive, and many actually claimed they probably wouldn't have even noticed if it hadn't been pointed out.
Of course, this isn't the first time movie and character names have caused unintended issues with foreign audiences. Sometimes producers are able to grab these accidentally faux pas before they make it out into the public domain, however most of the time they find out too late. Here are some examples of both.
Transformers: Age of Extinction's Slag
Slag has long been a founding member of the famous Dinobots, however the triceratops autobot found himself on the receiving end of a name change when he made his big screen debut in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
You see, although slag is traditionally a word describing the useless detritus that results from mining, it is also a relatively common British slang word for... well, a slag.
In British English, a slag can perhaps be best described as a promiscuously aggressive woman - usually of a fairly, let's say, 'lowly' background. In more recent years it can be used as an insulting word for anyone, male or female, with shouts of "I'll do you in, you slag!", "Oi, slag! Get out of my pub!" and "I heard your wife's been slagging it around the entire parish" now being commonly heard vernacular in polite English social circles.
Count Dooku's Less Palatable Portuguese Origins
Star Wars' Count Dooku was another name which was luckily caught by studio linguists prior to its release. Although based on the Japanese word for poison, 'Dooku' also sounds exactly like 'do cu' which means "from the ass" in Galician and Portuguese. Due to this, his name was changed to Dookan in the Brazilian dubbing of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.
Jurassic World's Racist Dinosaur
For the most part, Jurassic World's menagerie of dangerous attractions were equal-opportunities man-eaters - as they were happy to devour members from all of the Earth's rich tapestry of creeds and races.
However, the naming of one dinosaur - the pachycephalosaurus - caused a few raised eyebrows back in Britain. Most of this stems from one scene in which an actor states: "The pachys are out of containment". Now, to the British ear, this sounds exactly the same as "The Pakis are out of containment" - with 'Pakis' being a particularly vile racist slur for people from Pakistan.
Of course, its inclusion in the film was probably to save characters from having to say 'pachycephalosaurus' over and over again, and it seems producers were unaware the word had a fairly unsavory homophonic bedfellow.
For the most part, the incident was received with mock outrage in the UK, as the context of the film makes it extremely clear no offence was intended.
While we're on Jurassic World, however, I should also point out Chris Pratt's name is mildly amusing in British English. In Britain a 'prat' is basically analogous with an American 'jack-ass', so his name is basically Chris Jack-Ass in Britain.
The Last Airbender's Unintentional Archaic Insult
The constant reference to 'benders' in M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender was also likely to illicit childish sniggers from British audiences. In the UK, 'bender' is also a slightly archaic, but still well-known, offensive word for a homosexual man.
Everyone Needs Bad Neighbors
Although not an offensive title, studio execs thought the name of Seth Rogen and Zac Efron's fraternity comedy Neighbors wouldn't work well in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
That's because Neighbors is also the name of an insanely popular Australian soap opera which comes packaged with its own annoyingly catchy theme song. The show is pretty massive in these countries, and executives didn't want audiences to think they were going to be treated to a big screen adventure featuring such famous Neighbors characters as Toadfish, Dr Karl and Paul Robinson.