Great Britain

Amazon hits trouble with Sweden launch over lewd 'pussy' translation

Amazon’s launch of a Swedish retail site, its first in the Nordics, has led to red faces at the e-commerce company after a series of errors led to confusing, nonsensical and occasionally vulgar product listings scattered across the catalogue.

To start with, Amazon chose the wrong flag: the Argentine flag appeared where the Swedish flag should have been placed on the country picker. It’s unclear how the error happened: aside from copious use of blue, the two flags aren’t similar.

Other problems were more understandable, thanks to some disastrous automatic translation from listings on other European branches of the retailer. Nintendo Switch games were listed as suitable for the Nintendo Circuit Breaker, and a collection of second world war-era Russian infantry figurines was translated as “Russian toddlers”.

Products featuring cats were hit particularly hard, with the lewd double meaning of the word “pussy” leading to a T-shirt with a cat on it being labeled with an extremely vulgar Swedish term for “vagina”.

The wrong flag used by Amazon Sweden
Amazon Sweden used the Argentine flag to represent the country. Photograph: Amazon Sweden

In a statement, Amazon said: “We want to thank everyone for highlighting these issues and helping us make the changes and improve Amazon.se. Whilst we are really excited to have launched Amazon.se today with more than 150 million products, it is only day one for us here in Sweden, and we are committed to constantly improving the customer experience.

“Therefore, if anyone spots any issues with product pages, please do use the link on the page to provide feedback and we will make the necessary changes.”

The errors drew additional mockery due to the high rates of English literacy in Sweden. “Golf clapping for everyone at Amazon involved in the genius decision of doing garbage machine translation for 95+% of the site from a language that most people in Sweden can understand,” wrote Jake Shadle, a Stockholm-based games developer, on Twitter.

Amazon paired its Swedish launch with the announcement that the company was investing in a 91 megawatt windfarm in Bäckhammar, in western Sweden. The project will power the company’s Swedish datacentres, and feed excess electricity back into the company’s national grid.

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