Cleansing Chic

A UK clothes retailer has been left with egg on its face after an embarrassing product recall:

A T-shirt adorned with a slogan used by Russian right-wing groups to promote ethnic cleansing has been sold in one of Britain’s largest menswear stores.

Burton withdrew the T-shirt from all its stores this week when the true translation of the Cyrillic writing was pointed out. The expression translates as: “We will cleanse Russia of all non-Russians!”

A London staff member who speaks Russian noticed the translation gaffe when the T-shirt went on display and raised concerns with Burton’s brand director. A Burton spokeswoman said the employee revealed that the T-shirt was used by rightwing groups in Russia. The phrase is typical of those painted on the homes of foreigners by neo-Nazis.

It would be interesting to know how the slip-up happened. When I lived in Japan – world capital of the bizarre English slogan on clothes – I decided there must have been some stoned American college student sitting in an office in Tokyo thinking up ever more strange sentences in English for his employers and sniggering to himself as he handed over his work product: how else to explain the appearance of the phrase “Don’t f*ck that girl” on an otherwise unremarkable black chain store cardigan I saw on a paserby in Kyushu in 1987?

Other examples of linguistic garment cock-ups gratefully received in the comments box.

David T adds

I saw this brand of jeans for sale in a French market some years ago.