When good toys go offensive
You know the scene. We’ve all been there, checking out the shelves of goodies in Toys ‘R’ Us, searching for the perfect gift for our kids, nephews, nieces or grandchildren.
Suddenly a child runs past, squealing in delight after spotting ‘the toy’. The very same they’ve been diligently saving up their pocket money to buy. Everyone else has one. And now, finally, it’s their turn.
As they thrust the box into the air like the captain of a championship-winning football team, the parent in tow reluctantly takes it from them, skipping the name and any other pointless details as their gaze heads straight for the price tag.
“Can I have it, Daddy? Can I? Pleeeeease?”
“I’m not sure,” he says, yawning as he turns the box over, trying to find the sticker. “What is it anyway?”
At this point the child will roll their eyes, as if this is the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard.
“Oh Daddy, you mean you don’t know? It’s the new Spastic Transformer!”
Thanks to Hasbro, an American toy company, that is now the stupidest thing any of us will ever hear.
Recently, Hasbro seemed to forget they had a research and marketing department and in what sounds like it could have been a Friday drinks contest, names were thrown into a hat for their newest Transformer. ‘Spastic’ was probably only a joke, but it won anyway, and at least spared us ‘Retard’ or ‘Poofter’ (although I guess it’s possible these robots will show up in the next movie).
Of course, and in all seriousness (because when discussing a news story this ridiculous, there should be some semblance of seriousness), this news isn’t that ridiculous in America, where the word spastic is seemingly widely-used as a casual word for clumsiness or to describe someone who is overexcited.
I guess we all have words like that. Words that perhaps started out as something altogether untoward and have since found respectable work in everyday parlance.
The word spastic, however, is widely recognised in the UK and Australia as a term referring to someone who suffers from cerebral palsy, and, unfortunately, since its first use in the 1950s, it has become something of a derogatory term.
I already knew most of that, having grown up in the UK. But a quick internet search allowed me to confirm the details, just in case. Easy, right?
Similarly, when picking names for my son, my wife and I were pretty insistent on ensuring we had all bases covered and used the internet accordingly. Sadly Google ruled out ‘Jack’ (try it), and then ‘William’ was a front runner, until we typed in ‘W Hanks’ and realised he would have to learn how to be really funny, really fast when he got to school.
You’d think a fairly successful toy company would take similar precautions when selecting a name for a global product.
Apparently not. But they’re not alone.
The Mitsubishi Pajero? ‘Wanker’ in Spanish, from the word ‘paja’ which can mean wank. And the Ford Pinto? Also in the same neck of the woods, this can apparently refer to someone who is a little short of something to… well, ‘paja’.
And in 2001 Honda introduced their new car the ‘Fitta’ into Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Of course, in those countries, ‘fitta’ was also a rather vulgar reference to a woman’s genitals, which was unfortunate, given Honda’s slogan: ‘small on the outside, large on the inside’.
But still, Spastic Transformers?
Toy manufacturers everywhere, pay heed. A quick internet search is easy. Otherwise there’s a very real risk this Christmas will be Santa’s last.
You can just imagine the old guy scratching his head as he reads the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ lists, wondering exactly what the bad refers to these days, as down the chimney drops a bag of the latest toys: Robocock, Slutz, and the A-Team figures Hannibal, BA, Murdoch and Blackface.
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