I've heard some variation of this story a handful of times: an advertisement for a pen was meant to claim that it wouldn't leak in your pocket and embarass you, but in Spanish, they used the word embarazada, which means pregnant.


Kind of a funny story, but is it true? I'm skeptical because I've never seen a photo of the ad, and it's a story that only seems to be told in unsourced blog posts.

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    Note that the usual meaning of "embarazado/a" is pregnant, but it can also mean "embarrassed". dle.rae.es/embarazado
    – raven
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 8:19
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    @raven Good find, that link to RAE's definition. Native speaker, but never seen or heard it used in that meaning. :-)
    – Pablo H
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 13:40
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    Siemens were probably making a similar blunder with their "satisfy lust" slogan for mobile phones. "Lust" in German means desire or craving, and has no particular sexual connotations. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 14:09
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    @raven just to clarify: althought the RAE says it's valid to use "embarazado" as "embarrased", it would actually be really weird and probably misunderstood if used that way (I'm a native speaker and I've never heard it used that way) but, curiously, it's actually normal to say that something is "embarazoso" as in "embarrasing"
    – Josh Part
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 18:57
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    @MichaelKay: Lust in German does have sexual connotations ("heftiges, auf die Befriedigung sinnlicher, besonders sexueller Bedürfnisse gerichtetes [triebhaftes] Verlangen", duden.de), but perhaps not as the primary meaning of the word.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


The earliest source of this story is Blunders in International Business by David A. Ricks (first edition 1974). He basically repeats the story you heard. The book has few footnotes, but this story does have a footnote, which goes to his personal correspondence with the Parker Pen Company.

Although many people have cited the “pregnancy” problem experienced by Parker Pen, they seldom provide any details. The author, therefore, thanks the Parker Pen Company management for its open and refreshingly frank discussion of this past event and what caused it.

More details are provided by a former employee of the company, Roger E. Axtell. His books Do's and Taboos of International Trade (1994) and Essential Do's and Taboos (2007) name the exact time, the 1950s; the location, Latin America; the product, a type of ink called SuperQuink, not a pen; the type of advertisement, an enamel poster; and the exact slogan, Para evitar embarazo compra Parker SuperQuink. Axtell, who died in 2012, worked at the company for over 30 years.

With the magic of the Internet, things that were unconfirmable in the past are now easily located. I can confirm that the Parker Pen Company did put up enamel posters:

enter image description here

enter image description here

And I can indeed confirm that there was Super Quink being sold in Argentina in the 1950s:

enter image description here

However, I can find no trace of this slogan being used in English or Spanish.

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    @Barmar presumably the SuperQuink ink has some properties -- viscosity, maybe? -- that make it leak less. Consider the difference between water and mineral oil. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 15:45
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    @RossPresser, Quink spreads very quickly on paper, hence drying faster. (Early formulations also were very acidic and damaged most pens other than the Parker 51, so the pen and ink were promoted jointly as products made to work with each other). Modern fountain-pen inks that do the same thing (wrt. quick drying at the cost of increased feathering) are fairly common; the Noodler's Bernanke series is an example. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 20:53
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    It seems the reason you save embarrassment is because the ink washes out, rather than avoiding spilling it in the first place: i.pinimg.com/originals/d3/51/d8/…
    – Showsni
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 20:54
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    @stevengregory, ...speaking as someone who won't put Baystate Blue (a beautiful, deeply-colored ink that's deeply decisive because it stains surfaces badly and turns to gunk if mixed with an ink with a different pH) in any pen that isn't very cheap, how safe an ink is to use in a given pen can be serious business if you're a fountain pen user. Antifungal properties matter; how easy an ink is to clean out after being allowed to dry matters; etc. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 18:25
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    @CharlesDuffy: I have had more than a few shirts and pants pockets destroyed by leaky pens. I was only thinking of this in the context of the juxtaposition of prevent pregnancy and protect your pens. Fortunately, I used to live in Boulder City. Walking distance from the Fisher Space Pen Company. Free refills for the life of the pen. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 18:32

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