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Odd Language Choice:

At a McDonald's in Detroit, where he was traveling for business, my father got a drink cup with "I'm lovin' it" written in five languages -- English, Spanish, French, German, and Ukrainian ("ya tse l'ubl'u," to give the transliteration). Does anyone know, or suspect based on substantial evidence (rather than just sheer guesswork), why Ukrainian was the language chosen to be included?

Patrick McKenzie (mail):
I have seen at least five designs of that cup, always including English but the other languages have varied, including Spanish, German, Korean, Mandarin, Arabic, and several languages of European extraction which I cannot identify by sight. In one of their promotional graphics for the campaign I saw at least 20 unique translations for the phrase and probably more, didn't spend the time to count. Consequently, I would conclude that McDonalds likely has many varieties of cups in circulation through their distributors, and there is no particular reason why Ukranian was printed on that particular cup in preference to any other language. As to why McDonalds is going for the very multicultural feel, anyone's guess -- the campaign is global, though (you can see it in Japan), so maybe they're trying to leverage their kind of fun, kind of hip, we're-so-with-it global cultural influence? Or at least thats whats marketing is hoping.

Interestingly, the Japanese translation of "I'm lovin' it" is , wait for it, "I'm lovin' it". See the top left of this page -- its also repeated in their press releases here, although I don't have one on hand at the moment. http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/sales/menu_h_f.html
5.23.2005 9:20pm
Me (mail):
As a former resident (from some years ago), I would guess that Detroit has a sizable Ukrainian ethnic population. I remember substantial Polish and Armenian comunities, and think that there was also a Ukrainian community (is Hammtramck (sp.?) Ukrainian).
5.23.2005 9:41pm
DNL (mail):
Not to divert the topic, but I was at the UN today, and they had tours in Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Hebrew... and Swedish.

Why Swedish?
5.23.2005 9:53pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
I checked the Census data and Ukrainian is the 20th most common language in Wayne County, after (in order of popularity) English, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, French, Italian, German, Bengali, Chinese, Romanian, Greek, Serbocroatian, Albanian, Urdu, Syriac, Tagalog, Gujarathi, Hmong, and Hindi.
5.23.2005 10:54pm
James1 (mail):
There is a substantial population of Ukranian descent in Alberta. Perhaps the cups were printed for that market, and somehow found their way to Detroit instead.
5.23.2005 11:33pm
Gwendolyn (mail):
Are you sure the phrase is Ukranian? While you do not provide the benefit of the Cyrillic, the transliteration would be equally Russian.
5.24.2005 1:02am
Strophyx (mail):
While it's not directly related to McDonald's this reminds me of a trip to Egypt a few years ago. While walking around the usual (and even a few unusual) tourist spots, we were constantly beseiged by young boys attempting to sell us ballast for our trip home. Undoubtedly driven by the market, they made an automatic assumption about any westerner's first language, and so started their pitch in English. If you ignored their speil (and they hadn't heard you conversing), they would progress to other languages. I speak afew different languages (most rather poorly), so I had early on tried the "No hablo" bit to no effect; their Spanish was almost as good as mine, as was their German, and they could probably figure out that I wasn't Japanese. At one point I discovered that, despite the economic assistance to Sadat, Russian tended to stump them. I decided this would be unlikly to work on my next visit when I ran into three separate Ukrainian families outside Aswan later that afternoon.
5.24.2005 1:22am
Jules (mail):
No, Me, Hamtramck is Polish. There's a big Ukrainian Cultural Center in Warren, though, so there must be some sort of Ukrainian population in that general area to support it.
5.24.2005 9:29am
asg (mail):
I'm also fairly certain the French version is egregiously misspelled, although I can't remember how.
5.24.2005 10:45am
theParsonsFifth (mail) (www):
There was an article that I read in the WSJ yesterday (no free link) about targeted advertising and held up the "I'm lovin' it" campaign as an example. As they said the theme goes across the entire campaign but the adds are different.

In a women's magazine it would have a woman with fruit &nut salad. Others are tailored to the specific audience/demographic. This Ukrainian cup is no accident.
5.24.2005 11:02am
Steve:
Jules is correct. The Ukranian population is mostly found in Macomb County.
5.24.2005 11:27am
Rebecca (mail):
As a Detroiter, born and raised, I can tell you that there is a "community" of almost every possible ethnicity and nationality that you can imagine somewhere in Wayne, Macomb or Oakland counties. I'm sure there is a Ukranian community in Detroit, but I seriously doubt that anyone would make marketing choices in Detroit directed at the Ukrainian community. For that matter, the inclusion of German is just as weird. If the languages selected were specifically targeted at Detroit, they would have included Polish, Arabic, Albanian, Japanese. My guess is that the languages were selected at random and not targeted towards a specific locality.
5.24.2005 1:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
My father speaks both Ukrainian and Russian, so he's quite positive that it's Ukrainian rather than Russian; I speak Russian, so I can confirm that it's not Russian. It's conceivable, I suppose, that the phrase would be the same in some other language that's written using the Cyrillic alphabet, such as Serbian or Bulgarian, but I have no reason to believe that this is so.
5.24.2005 7:03pm
fred binkle (mail):
Why this question? I would ask, why French or German?
5.25.2005 1:57pm