Suzuki’s new, boxy minicar has earned quite a few laughs and raised eyebrows from English speakers with its name, “Hustler.” The brand name, chosen to give off the image of agility and nostalgia from customers with an off-road motorbike released in 1969 called Hustler 250, instead brought to mind an adult magazine from the U.S. with the same name.
English speakers might associate the word to the adult magazine created by Larry Flynt, or to the slang term used in vice industries, which means to obtain money through illegal means. While this isn’t the first time words from foreign dictionaries were used to name a car in Japan, with it actually becoming more common recently, the Hustler joins the ranks of other Japan-made cars with amusing names to foreign speakers, the likes of which include Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd’s “Naked,” launched in 2000, and Isuzu Motors Ltd’s 1983 “Bighorn.” Even Spanish speakers had their fair share shock when Mazda Motor Corp launched “Laputa,” a derogatory term for a sex worker.
Japanese confectionary is no different, with a chocolate snack unfortunately called “Collon,” while an isotonic sports drink is named “Pocari Sweat,” which brings to mind a number of unappealing bodily functions. The use of such words, often with little to no regard for their meaning, is due to the fact that foreign words sounds different and “exotic.” Executive Director Masamichi Nakamura from Interbrand in Tokyo said, “Japan really is an island nation, and was historically closed for a long time. Also, the domestic market is so big that companies can be successful without thinking globally.”
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