Today I was asked to come up with a word that was the same in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch to be used on the packaging of a CD-Rom of puzzles and word games (the CD content was different for each country, but the manufacturer wanted to use the same artwork for the packaging). They asked for a word of six or seven letters in length, to fit into an existing template.
It was a surprisingly difficult task. First I tried words ending in 'o' or 'a', but there was usually at least one language that was different. Enigma was okay in most languages, but in French it's enigme (with an accent on the first 'e'). Radio, sauna, koala and taxi, which are pretty universal, were too short - and, anyway, they didn't have much in common with the subject matter of the CD. Some words were too closely associated with one particular language - origami, bolero, allegro. Tennis has one 'n' in Spanish, and there are lots of other words which differ by just one letter. I thought 'domino' would be perfect, but then found out that dominoes wasn't one of the games on the CD, so to have it on the packaging might cause confusion. Bikini is understood in all the relevant countries, but might suggest a product for women. I thought safari might be a good compromise. I thought eureka might be even better - but then found that my German dictionary translated it with an h - heureka.
Luckily I don't have to make the final choice. I submitted a list, and the distributor, or manufacturer, can decide. Now I understand why multinationals often make up words for their brands - Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Adidas, and so on.