McDonald's Hmong Billboard in St. Paul Gets Lost in Translation

Native speakers question the copy

Always on the lookout for fresh arteries to clog, McDonald's has begun advertising in Hmong on billboards in St. Paul, Minn., which has more Hmong people—tens of thousands—than any other U.S. city. But the effort backfired, as native speakers are complaining that McDonald's dished up unhealthy portions of the Asian dialect. One message, via ad agency Arnold, reads, "Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj mus," which translates roughly to "Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going." Thai Lee, a local doctor, tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the text is "missing key breaks in the language" and "as it stands right now, it doesn't make sense at all." He also gets in this zinger: "Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity are already a major health concern in the Hmong community. Most of this is attributed to the changing Westernized eating behaviors that Hmong people have adapted to." Is any copy on a McDonald's ad, except perhaps pricing, even necessary? Simply plastering the town with 10-foot-high Big Macs, fries and Golden Arches should do nicely. "Mmmmmm" is the universal language.