Of course the following story would be comical if I could say that nothing like this ever happens here.
...Straightforward enough. Splice in the different databases, slap a name on the product, pray. Not for AOL. The company engaged a top-tier naming agency, evaluated 120 different options, tested the finalists with focus groups in Denver and Chicago, checked on the meaning in 16 languages -- and the brand strategy group explained its process in a laughably belabored 20-slide presentation.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. There isn't much risk if you are a start-up in naming your product something that means "crap" in non-English languages. But if you are AOL then doing so could mean irreparable harm to your brand and the money you make in that country.
I shudder when I think how much effort must have gone into the "Vista" name choice, but I'd rather spend that money than piss off an entire country or ethnic group with a poorly chosen name.
I won't say this means there is no bloat here, but simply that some things that are laughable from the perspective of a english language only startup are not that laughable when you own products that need to scale globally.