It’s all Greek to me: Companies that should never do business in Greece

English is the number one language used in International commerce, regardless of the actual number of native speakers: The number of Chinese Mandarin speakers surpasses that of native speakers of English around the world – a staggering 845 million versus 345 million for English.

Several dozen other languages are spoken worldwide, one of which is Greek.

Despite its important role in introducing literature, philosophy, science and arts to the so-called Western Civilization, Greek is only spoken by roughly 14 million people worldwide; most of them in Greece, Cyprus and the Greek diaspora around the world.

The use of a non-Latin alphabet by the Greeks has proven to be a challenge throughout the proliferation of computers and the Internet. Although the ISO 639-1 standard now describes the particulars of the Greek language so that Greeks can utilize every major operating system, such as Windows, Linux or OS X the fact remains that quite often Greeks online resort to the use of ‘greeklish’ for communicating with eachother.

Essentially, typing Greek words with their phonetic corresponding combination – or even visual substitute – is the definition of ‘greeklish’. For example, a simple Greek word such as “Αθήνα” for “Athens” can be written as “Athina” in greeklish. Due to the Latin alphabet lacking the letter theta, a visual substitution is often used: the number “8” – closely resembling a Greek theta – would render “A8ina” as a valid greeklish word.

Things get even more complex due to the lack of a standard for the greeklish use; for example, if we were to utilize visual substitution versus phonetic, “Αθήνα” could easily be written as “A8nva” – using “n” as a Greek eta and “v” as the letter ni (Note: the name of the letter “N” or “ni” is inexplicably scribed as “nu” by the English lexicons.)

Confused yet?

This introduction about how Greeks type words is related to a whole separate issue: when written in greeklish, certain Greek words match other words written in English which have a whole different meaning.

And that’s where the fun begins.

The shorthand of “Muni” for “municipal” is a commonly used word in English. It’s also guaranteed to bring a chuckle to a Greek speaker, simply because it means “pussy” – and not of the feline kind.

In a similar manner, references to “colos” for “co-location services” are bound to be negatively received by a Greek speaker: the word means “ass” – the very one you’re sitting on right now. The same word can be written with a “K” as “kolos” – I am certain that the company behind – a bookstore from Ukraine – would never want to open a department in downtown Athens, Greece.

Finally, I remember walking around Wal-Mart, only to find a fine specimen of failed marketing research. The Kavli brand includes some really tasty crackers but I doubt they’d be bringing them to Greece, where the word is a crude reference to “cock” – not of the rooster kind, mind you.


  1. Hi,

    there are a lot such words in other Languages too.
    Most popular example is:
    “Gift” (Eng.) = “Poison” (German)
    So is Poison Shop 😉

  2. Reminds me of the Brut Cologne brand that failed hard in Poland a fews back, because the word “brut” loosely means “dirt” in Polish. 😀

    I’ve also seen some hilarious Polish company and brand names, such as Krak-Gas, Harry’s Salted Nuts, Fart Video, Super Krak, and many others… 😀

  3. Thank you both – just the type of additional info I’d like to see: words that mean something different in a language other than English 😀

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