Grave error? Facebook’s new name Meta means dead in Hebrew

Source: The Guardian

Date: 10/29/2021

Facebook’s name change has been roundly mocked on social media, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Israel: Meta sounds like the Hebrew word for “dead”.

As images of Facebook’s name superimposed on a tombstone were shared online, Dr Nirit Weiss-Blatt, a tech expert, wrote in a tweet directed towards Facebook’s communications team: “In Hebrew, *Meta* means *Dead*.” The author of The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication added: “The Jewish community will ridicule this name for years to come.” Meta sounds like the feminine form of the Hebrew word.

Another Twitter user posed the question: “Perhaps that’s a message? Disclaimer: I’m not a conspiracist.” And another wrote: “Maybe Facebook (I guess Meta now?) should have done some focus groups on the rebranding. #FacebookDead

The Israeli emergency rescue organisation Zaka – whose work includes collecting human remains to ensure a proper Jewish burial – was quoted as reassuring its Twitter followers: “Don’t worry, we’re on it.”

It is not the first instance of brands getting lost in translation. When KFC arrived in China in the 1980s with its catchphrase “finger lickin’ good”, it was not met with enthusiasm by the locals. The translation in Mandarin was “eat your fingers off”. However, no real harm was done and KFC is one of the largest fast-food chains in the country.

The Facebook rebrand on Thursday was met with laughter of a different kind at a lesser-known Canadian industrial materials company whose share price surged in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Reuters reported that shares in Meta Materials, based in Nova Scotia,jumped 6% in opening trades on the Nasdaq on Friday, after a 26% rise in after-hours trading. Facebook shares were up 1.6%.

Meta Materials specialises in designing materials used in industries including consumer electronics and aerospace and has an estimated market value of $1.3bn (£950m). It remained unclear whether the shares climb was really caused by the similarity in names. One user on the Reddit community dedicated to discussing Meta Materials’ stock asked: “Is the (after-hours) price action real, or are people buying MMAT thinking they are getting Facebook for really cheap?”

Whatever the reasons, the company was quick to celebrate its unexpected windfall. George Palikaras, the CEO of Meta Materials, joined in on the fun, tweeting: “On behalf of @Metamaterialtec I would like to cordially welcome @Facebook to the #metaverse.”

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