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Lost in the Translation 103

jetpack writes "This isn't really news for nerds. In fact it's not even news (from 1996) However, since it is kinda related to some of the fun we've had with babblefish in the past, it seems kinda relevant. One of the documentation chix0rs here at work pointed this one out to me. Check out this interview with Madonna. " Ok, normally I wouldn't post something like this, but if you need a laugh, just read it. It's worth your time.
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Lost in the Translation

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  • A linguist friend of mine once told me that he thought he understood a broad range of languages with English, French, German, etc., but that when he learned Swahili he came to view all the Indo-European languages he knew as dialects of one another.

    Doug Loss

  • not to mention the teachers edge. heaven only knows if teachers are making you say 'my teacher is the greatest person on earth.' over and over.
  • by Keith Higgins ( 87533 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @08:20PM (#1612592) Homepage

    I was wondering why it read so much like "wild and crazy guys" dialogue. Still funny.

    Of course, all mistranslation humour is highly derivative - when was the book The English as She Is Spoke written? 1860s? Everyone who does an English-Portuguese-English translation on Babelfish is paying homage to that one.

  • Language and cultural mistranslations are an unending barrel of laughs.

    My Brazilian friends nearly laughed their heads off when I brought them a few cans of the recently discontinued "Josta". For non-US residents, this was a soft drink based on the Amazonian Guaraná plant (pronounced something like "gwah-rrah-NAH").

    Besides the weird taste, the marketing emphasis on its supposedly aphrodisiac properties - which Brazilians don't take seriously at all - and the weird color, "Josta" is a common euphemism for "manure" in most parts of Brazil.

    No wonder it didn't sell...

  • But the webpage only has the official translation, (who needs that, it's on every chinese Cola) it doesn't have the original funny tranlation. I can't pull my hair out and translate this wax tadpole back to cantonese and still sound like Coca-cola.
    Maybe Biblefish can help me :)

  • This is the first part of the article run through Babelfish in the following order:

    English --> Portugese --> English --> Italian --> English

    It's interesting that Babelfish doesn't even understand words it uses from other languages...

    Blikk: Madonna, Budapest says that hello with the arms that are it is scattered - eagled. You have one called here that it was gradevole? They are you in the good odore? It you are the larger fan of the our new people who feel the relative musical productions and they appreciate to them to move the relative bodies in the answer.

    Madonna: [ thankses that say these conservations to it of compliment have raised the hands ]. the arrests satisfy with making the examination of the photography of the sensationalist until that it does not remove the indumenti of the mine for all in order seeing [ risate ]. That is a joke that I have made.

    Blikk: Madonna, we cut for the hunting: You are bold(realce) of the hussy-woman these parties in the men who are high?

    Madonna: Yes,
  • And even Swahili was formed as a trading language, so it's a lot closer to Indo-European roots than some languages. Try Australian Aborigine, for example. jadiel
  • by dougman ( 908 ) on Friday October 15, 1999 @04:36AM (#1612601)
    For the reading pleasure of the Slashdot community, I have decided to take the English-to-Hungarian-to-English Madonna interview and run it through 2 more layers of translation.

    Without further ado, here is the world premiere of the English-to-Hungarian-to-Puff Daddy-to-English-to-Linux Zealot translation of the Madonna interview. (lifts curtain)

    Blikk: Madonna, Budapest says hello with arms that are spread-eagled. Did you have a visit here that was agreeable? Are you in good odor? You are the biggest
    fan of our young people who hear your musical productions and like to move their bodies in response.

    Madonna: Thank you for saying these fresh compliments [holds up Red Hat CD]. Please stop with taking whack ass photographs until I have open sourced my body for all to
    see [crosses arms]. This is a joke I have made, muthafucka.

    Blikk: Madonna, let's cut toward the hunt: Are you a bold hussy-woman that feasts on men who are tops?

    Madonna: Yes, yes, this is certainly something that brings to the surface my longings. In America it is not considered to be smack when a woman flashes that sweet booty in a phat joint with whack Tanqueray present. And there is a more normal attitude toward GPL'd software that also makes my day.

    Blikk: Is this how you met Carlos, your love-servant who is reputed? Did you know he was heaven-sent right off the stick? Or were you dating many other people
    in your bed at the same time?

    Madonna: No, he was the only distro I was using in my crib then, so it is a scientific fact that the gnome desktop environment was made in my hootchie using him. But check yoself before you wreck yoself! I am a fly ho and not a closed-source solution! Carlos is an everyday distro who is in the orbit of a star who is being recompiled by him, not a playa.

    Blikk: May we talk about your other "baby," your movie, then? Please do not be denying that the similarities between you and the real Evita are grounded in basis.
    Power, money, tasty food, Grammys--all these elements are afoot.

    Madonna: What's your problem, G? Evita never ran on a Sparc station, you better recognize!

    Blikk: Perhaps not. But as to your film, in trying to bring your reputation along a rocky road, can you make people forget the bad explosions of Who's That Girl?
    and Shanghai Surprise?

    Madonna: I am a phat entertainer. That's my joint that I am paid (and share with the free software foundation) to do.

    Blikk: O.K., here's a question from left space: What was your book Slut about?

    Madonna: It was called Penguin, fool.

    Blikk: Not in Hungary. Here it was called Slut. How did it come to publish? Were you lovemaking with a man-about-town printer? Do you prefer making
    suggestive literature to fast-selling CDs?

    Madonna: I'm a pimp, I can do it all. I am preferring only to become respected all over the map as a 100% open source artist.

    Blikk: There is much interest in you from this geographic region, so I must ask this final questions: How many Hungarian men have you dated in bed? Are they No.
    1? How are they comparing to Argentine men, who are famous for being tip-top as well?

    Madonna: Well, to avoid laying the global smack down, I would say microsoft sucks [crosses arms]. No, no, I am serious now. Give me props, I am working like a Beowulf cluster all the way
    around the clock! I have been too busy even to try the fine mary jane that makes your country one for the record books.

    Blikk: Thank you for your candid chitchat.

    Madonna: No problem, dope friend of open source who is a girl.

  • I find this questioning of a tip top starlet who is a girl to be laughable. I read the links that do come from the forward-slash period orginization. They are fresh from the food heating device every morning. This suggestive literature makes me perspire in the manner of a small, warm-blooded farm-dwelling creature. Keep up the sensationalist electronic publication,
  • Cool, I wouldn't have had the time to write it, but I found the time to read it. Visor
  • Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Rai and Jiri at Lungha. Rai of Lowani. Lowani under two moons. Jiri of Ubaya. Ubaya of crossed roads. At Lungha. Lungha, her sky gray. Kadir beneath Mo Moteh. The river Temarc in winter. Shaka, when the walls fell. Mirab, his sails unfurled! Temba, his arms wide. Uzani, his army at Lashmir. Uzani, his army, with fists open. His army with fists closed. Sokath, his eyes uncovered! Kailash! When it rises. Kiazi's children, their faces wet. Zinda! His face black, his eyes red! Temba, his arms wide.
  • by emmons ( 94632 )
    No problem here in germany... half the people speak english so they just leave the slogans the way they are. Heck, even some german companies use english slogans. Strange.

  • Yeah, the watashi stuff (Z for those of us who hate romaji, who know kanji, AND have SJIS decoders) is really annoying. I'm suck in "polite" mode mostly myself.

    Learning "ú-{OEê these days is best done with furigana and not romaji.

    I would like to see an international slashdot someday. Post in your native language and slash will translate it into another, or maybe have non-english threads. I need to constantly practice to keep my language skills intact, and this would be a neat way to do it.

    BTW: I'm thinking about learning Chinese next.(which one I don't know yet) Any good web resources out there?

    - f}fCfPf
  • From the "If You Can't Speak Chinese, Please Shutup! Dept": This whole Coca-Cola/Tadpole/Dead Hourse thing is a myth. AP picked up the story off some website, but never check the sources. This story also included movies titles with strange translations. This was all a bunch of crap. It's just another case of bad reporting.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful words--not a rant at all. I heartily second mdxi's suggestion about learning a foreign language. It's kind of weird to be discussing it as a decision at all, but that's the way it is here in America--the country's so huge and monoilngual that few people bother.

    I can't speak as to the mind-expanding properties of Asian languages (to the Western mind, that is), since I've never studied one, though I've always wanted to do so. In my case, the expanding of vistas was in the realm of culture. Now there are around 20 million extra people who share a whole range of world-views and experiences with me, just by virtue of having lived in Spain in the 90s. Not only that, but I can talk with another 180 million from around the Spanish-speaking world and learn of their unique backgrounds, world-views, and circumstances. I hope I can someday put this knowledge to a less selfish use, and join the Peace Corps in Latin America. Hopefully one of these days I'll strike it rich here in the Silicon Valley and be able to take a year or two off. ;)

    PS: Another thing mdxi is right about: Knowing a foreign language gets you into all sorts of interesting conversations. People love to try out their proficiency in another language, and they love to learn about the way others think and live. When I was travelling across Europe and living in Spain, I was astounded by people's inborn neophilia. Not just students, but professors, trainyard workers, restaurant owners and waiters, shopkeepers, and especially fellow travelers would strike up conversations with me all the time: Where are you from? What have you seen in Europe? What is (food, women, nature, school) like in America? Travel can give you a great sense of cameraderie with the people of the world and a very good impression of something you would never know otherwise: just how similar and how different people are in different cultures. Those are precious gifts indeed.
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • by Mr. Piccolo ( 18045 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @08:23PM (#1612611) Homepage
    Mangles vocabulary less?? Check out what it does to this story (English -> German -> English):

    Lost in the translation

    Communicated by CmdrTaco on Thu October 14, 22:48 CDT of they ain't you ain't kidding the department of jet luggage does not write " this is really message for nerds. It is not actual even messages (of 1996) it kinda is however there, which is confessed on something by the fun in connection, that, we with babblefish in the past to have had, it seems the relevant kinda. One of the documents chix0rs at the work showed this out here to me. Check from this interview with okayMadonna. ", normally became I not somewhat in such a way, but to communicate, if you need a laughter, it even read. It is worth your time.
    (more read... | 35 comment)

    Dunno... maybe the translation to English is the broken part.
  • you learned a great deal from fortune(6)

  • Do you reckon you'd get slapped with a trademark infringement if you created a drink and called it "Bite the Wax Tadpole" ?

  • Yep, hoax or not, that's just about the worst (and funniest) "translation" I've ever read. Still, for me the prize for most unintentionally humorous word-mangling must go to the subtitles for a Hong Kong actioner called, I kid you not, "Naked Killer." If you ever get the chance to catch it on the big screen, like at a HK film fest or something, do so--it's a riot.
    ------ -------------
  • F.*The old Chevy Nova was a failure in Spanish speaking countries because it translates to "No go." [Esp. since "Nova" means "star."]

    of course "nova" and "no va" are two different things. explained here []
  • Yes, much of the stuff even in college textbooks is bullshit, as I found out from my instructors and, later, from living in Spain. My favorite example is the phrase repita, por favor, which is taught early on in almost every Spanish textbook in the second or third lesson as a way to indicate that you misheard someone. Actually, it's about as abrupt and un-idiomatic as saying Repeat please! in English. (The correct usage, equivalent to the English beg pardon?, is Cómo?)
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product
  • by jelwell ( 2152 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @09:24PM (#1612620)
    Ok, I must say that I was in Budapest this last summer for a bit and I was awe-struck by some the culture there. In Budapest everyone wears skin tight clothing and little to no underwear. If a woman is wearing underwear you can make out every frill of the lace of the g-string that hugs the curves of the butt. I couldn't believe how little they wear there. My guidebook (Let's Go) had informed me that they wear speedo type clothing, and very little regularly, but nonetheless I was shocked.

    I approached and spoke with one girl who I had the pleasure of befriending and upon asking her "why women in Budapest wear so little" she was as astonished as I was. Her comment was to the effect of "the women in american movies wear the same". I tried, but could not explain to her that movies are not reality - that everyone in america does NOT dress like they do in the movies. (especially the ones we export to Budapest).

    The point here is: Budapest is a pretty racey place. The hostel I stayed at had a drug list behind the counter, and Burger King maps listed strip bars as advertising.

    So it doesn't surprise me at all that Budapest loves Madonna.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • that's the kind of stuff that you just can't pay people to write...

    That is being the funniest thing i am have read.
  • not linux, tux.

  • You can even get the similar effect across dialects. My friends from New Zealand found it funny that one of my best friends (or anyone, for that matter) was named Sheila. Sheila is apparently a somewhat derogatory way of referring to women in New Zealand. They laughed hard several times when I mentioned her name.
  • Ha, I love those! I wish I could find the list I had somewhere of the mistakes companies made trying to push their products into markets where they had no clue about the local culture!

    My favorite is when Gerber tried to move into some north-african markets. Anyone who has seen their baby-food products will recognize the cute little fat baby on the label. What they didn't realize was the prevailing practice of placing pictures of a product's contents on the labels because of the high illiteracy rates. People couldn't read so a can of pork and beans would have a picture of a pig and beans on the label. A picture of a baby with the words 'strained peas' on the label did not generate sales for some strange reason...
  • Rob, I just don't see how you can find that amusing.

    It makes a lot more sense than most of what comes out of Hollywood these days.

    And I'm not just blowing air thru a cellulose-based beverage container typically used at informal outdoor gatherings.
  • "Will you come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"
  • I can still remember what we had to recite every day in sixth grade Spanish class:

    Prometo lealtad a la bandera de los Estados Unidos de America, y al la republica que ella representa, una nacion, baja Dios, con libertad y justicia para todos.

  • You can find LOTS of these examples at []. You will, however, be disappointed to learn how often they are untrue. Just like the baby food story [].
  • Certainly, I am dying of laugh! "...hardy cocktails present", indeed....
  • Though considering Madonna's style, that "move their bodies in response" takes on an appropriate meaning..."truth or dare"

  • LOL! this is Hilarious!

    ahhh yes...babelfish can be fun :)

    babelfish []

    " Madonna: Thank you for saying these compliments [holds up hands]. Please stop with taking sensationalist photographs until I have removed my garments for all to see [laughs]. This is a joke I have made. " LOL

  • There. They acknowledged that it wasn't news for nerds, and it was old news.
    Now you lamers who protest against a good article for one of those reasons don't have anything to say. Ha!
  • I took a trip to Mexico (when I was younger) once and I saw an English Workbook that a 7th grader (english equivalent) had, and it was full of crap like this. The English parts of the book were indecipherable. It kinda makes me think what kind of insane spanish I learned in High School.
  • ...this wasn't one of those essays they put on the last page of each issue? (Remember the "serious proposal" that we drain lake Superior for fresh water?)

    This has to be bullshit. But at least it's funny bullshit.
  • What is up in the air with you? Evita never was winning a Grammy!

    that's the kind of stuff that you just can't pay people to write...true humor is real humor :)


  • Yes, but linux run in her bed does she ?

    Music ? []
  • by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @07:10PM (#1612641)
    This interview is one of many things that has been made better by mistranslation.

    For example, the Chinese syllables that Coca-Cola used at first, which sounded roughly like "Coca-Cola", literally meant "Bite the Wax Tadpole." Now THAT is an awesome name for a drink. IMO, instead of changing the Chinese name to "Liquid Happiness", they should have changed the English name to "Bite the Wax Tadpole."

  • This should give the people working on the Universal Metalanguage some food for thought... I predicted something like this for the Metalang's attempts at translating.
  • "...he was the only one I was dating in my bed then..."
    "This is a joke I have made."
    Sounds very Pokey-esqe, dontcha think? :)


  • ... what'll happen when they get universal translators (a la Star Trek)?
    "Uhura, did the Klingon ambassador just say 'Klingon make boom' -or- 'Klingon make booze'? Damn Uhura. Damn. We must figure out whether they want to make love or war..."


    Child: Mommy, where do .sig files go when they die?
    Mother: HELL! Straight to hell!
    I've never been the same since.

  • by NatePuri ( 9870 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @10:12PM (#1612646) Homepage
    for a long time.

    You computer nerd peoples do not make enough laughs. You must comprehend the importance of the laughters. We listen to the jokes we is tellings and really laugh a lot.

    No seriousness, everything is happens for a reason. How we going to be friends unless speaking translated? Madonna is a slut book! Ha ha... She has the flappies! ;)

    Oh boy, these American musics really eat the pie! In my country, we listen. But I never could understand what the hell they saying. Even though I listen to these musics all day and dance, all I could speak in English language was "I sue you."

    I thought I was a cool guy and saying like the "Hi Dude!" Boy I should have shoot myself in the hole in the head. Ok now dudes bye bye. Don't stop with the having laughters, it is an importance, seriousness.

  • by Jonathan the Nerd ( 98459 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @07:17PM (#1612647) Homepage
    This is just a spoof. More information can be found at te/madonna.htm [].

  • Sweet. I need to go to Budapest.

    Is that anywhere near Texas? I'm going there tommorrow, maybe I could swing by Budapest.
  • I remember, some years ago, trying to find out more about a DEC Hinote Ultra II laptop I was thinking of buying. The only review I could find on the web was in Spanish, so I fed it through a translation service. Most of it worked fairly well, and I could read the article, but it did want to translate 'desktop' as 'tablecloth' and 'turn on' as 'ignite'.

    The reviewer was very excited about the fact that the laptop was so capable, you could often go for the whole day without igniting your tablecloth.

    (Actually, the machine turned out to be one of the worst purchases I have ever made. Igniting the tablecloth would have been much more fun.)

  • Um, did they identify themselves as "chix0rs"? Would they, voluntarily? Have you asked them? Maybe you should.

  • wasn't there another one where "Coke Adds Life" came out "Coke brings back your dead relatives" or something to that affect?

    This was Pepsi, and is believed to be true, see the alt.folklore.urban FAQ []:

    • F.*The old Chevy Nova was a failure in Spanish speaking countries because it translates to "No go." [Esp. since "Nova" means "star."]
    • Tb.Pepsi had a similar episode where "Come Alive with Pepsi!" is rendered as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!"

    (although I would have thought that 'the choice for a new generation' is more likely to translate as 'reincarnation'.)

  • The use of Hungarian as a choice surely gave it away as a hoax.

    My hovercraft is full of eels!
    My nipples explode with the light!
    I weeel not buy thees record, eet is scratched!

    etc, etc. []
  • I think he said you need to run his comment thru babelfish a few times before it begins to make sense...


  • In [the first book I read about computers], it was explained that computer translation couldn't work, how US government had done massive funding with almost zero results and had abandoned the idea. It also explained the 'universal intermediate language' idea, and how it didn't help much: in order to interpret language you have to know the world, and computers don't. This book was written in the early 70s.

    Later, I heard that even for programming languages, the attempts to use a universal language for translation were considered a misguided approach from the 60s. I also heard that someone was trying to create a gigantic thesausus (Cyc) to overcome the world knowledge problem, and how futile this was. And, of course, I learnt about initiatives that blandly ignored received wisdom and started out as if the idea of computer translation had never been tried before.

    In the computer industry, swift and successful projects are a failure to everyone concerned, except the customer. That's why people work computer translation.

    Considering all this, I'm surprised at how well Babelfish does. Its English/German translation is very good: it produces comprehensible sentences Compare this to, which I sometimes visit for a good laugh, and you'll see how easy it is to go wrong.
  • Has anyone seen another Hong Kong movie called "Women on the Run"? We saw it at the Asian film festival here in toronto in August...
    at the climax of the movie, the corrupt cop is shot in the genitals, to which his counterpart declares (in subtitles):
    "Detective Chang! Your penis is over!"

    Also, their portrayal of Victoria BC as a city of sex crazed French lumberjacks was great. As was the Fat woman RCMP officer who brutalized the heroines.
    Culture shock in the movies is always great for a laugh. Now pardon me while I go chop down some trees and molest a beaver, Eh!

  • "Language is a virus sent from outer space
    and hearing your [read:Madonna's] voice is better than seeing your face."
  • by acb ( 2797 ) on Friday October 15, 1999 @07:33AM (#1612659) Homepage
    This reminds me of what is probably one of the least useful phrasebooks ever written (the following review of which occasionally appears on mailing lists):

    This comes from the best sixty cents I ever spent, a British book called
    "The Incomplete Book of Failures: The Official Handbook of the
    Not-Terribly-Good Club of Great Britain". It's probably out of print
    and unavailable, but get it if you can.

    The Worst Phrasebook

    Pedro Carolino is one of the all-time freats. In 1883 he wrote an
    English-Portuguese phrasebook despite having little or no command of the
    English language.

    His greatly recommended book "The New Guide of the Conversation in
    Portuguese and English" has now been reprinted under the title "English
    As She is Spoke".

    After a brief dedication:

    'We expect then, who the little book (for the care what we wrote him,
    and for her typographical correction) that may be worth the acceptation
    of the studious persons, and especially of the youth, at which we
    dedicate him particularly.'

    Carolino kicks off with some 'Familiar phrases' which the Portuguese
    holidaymaker might find useful. Among these are:

    Dress your hairs
    This hat go well
    Undress you to
    Exculpate me by your brother's
    She make the prude
    Do you cut the hairs?
    He has tost his all good

    He then moves on the 'Familiar Dialogues' which include 'For to wish
    the good morning,' and 'For to visit a sick.'

    Dialogue 18 - 'For to ride a horse' - begins: 'Here is a horse who
    have bad looks. Give me another. I will not that. He not sall know to
    march, he is pursy, he is foundered. Don't you are ashamed to give me a
    jade as like? he is unshoed, he is with nails up.' In the section on
    'Anecdotes' Carolino offers the following guaranteed to enthrall any

    'One eyed was laied against a man which had good eyes that he saw
    better than him. The party was accepted. I had gain, over said the one
    eyed; why I se you two eyes, and you not look me who one.'

    It is difficult to top that, but Carolino manages in a useful section
    of 'Idiotism and proverbs'. These include:

    Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss
    He eat to coaches
    A take is better than two you shall have
    The stone as roll not heap up not foam

    and the well-known expression:

    The dog than bark not bite

    Carolino's particular genius was aided by the fact that he did not
    possess an Enlish-Portuguese Dictionary. However, he did possess
    Portuguese-French and French-English dictionaries through both of which
    he dragged his original expressions. The results yield language of
    originality and great beauty. Is there anything in conventional English
    which could equal the vividness of 'To craunch a marmoset'?
  • Taking a wild stab at it, I would imagine that #3 is referring to 'sour grapes.'

    For those of you *cough* who claim to be too young to catch the reference, its from the Aesop's Fable "The Fox and the Grapes."

    Cause back in my day we didnt have any of this namy-pamby dick and jane stuff.. we had aesops fables and we LIKED 'em!

  • Interesting. It seems that the story we are currently posting to is also marked by as untrue.
  • No, no, no, no! You're supposed to tootle him melodiously at first! :-)

    (The few) people who hadn't heard this before would do well to read the whole thing [].

    I remember I received this list by email and along with it, a list of excuses [] parents wrote for their kids after they missed school. I almost died laughing.

  • Hahahaha. This was pretty funny, but the idioms were surprisingly intact, despite the alternate wordings/phrasings. The really funny part came when I moved to the next /. story, about the puffin []. The story made no sense! I was laughing at it, as if it were a bad translation! I have often stopped and laughed at a page in a technical book/article, when I stopped parsing it as teknospeak and realized that, fifty or a hundred years ago (or even to, say, my mother) the whole thing would be SHEER GIBBERISH. Ha-ha. I don't know quite what my point is, but I'm sure I have one.

  • I am not knowink who you are talkink about.
  • by kiscica ( 89316 ) on Thursday October 14, 1999 @07:26PM (#1612668) Homepage
    as anyone who's familiar with Hungarian could tell (it isn't at all in the style of ordinary Hungarian-to-English mistranslation, or "Hunglish" as we call it). Note that the article does point out that this is a joke:

    >USA Today, presumably pressed for space,
    >published only a few of these gems, leaving the
    >rest to the imagination, whence has sprung the
    >following complete transcript:

    who has worked as a Hungarian-to-English (and vice-versa) translator
  • I saw a booklet while I was in Germany once that was about american slang. It was written in the 1970s but was still being read by some germans as an instructional manual on american slang. One chapter was called "Fruit Slang" and contained such helpful slang sentences as:

    1) Everyone knows that he's top banana
    2) He's the big apple in this town.
    3) He is such a grape

    and more that I forget...they seem to revolve around stature, but I can't figure out where the hell #3 came from - I'm guessing that #2 came from someone who heard about New york's nickname while high on crack...and number one is "real" slang, it's just ancient, and was stupid even when it was current. :)


  • Babel Fish isn't that bad. I think that it mangles vocabulary less than some people do.
    As a test of how bad Babel Fish is, I put this scentence through it, from English to French, and back.
    The result was:
    As test of at which point the bad fish of Babel east, I put this sentence by it, of English-French and back.

    Amusing, but I think more easily understood than some of the quotes from that story.
  • Huh, I guess you *can* pay people
    to write this stuff ...

    ... at least if they're as talented
    as Garry Trudeau.
  • now i know how shakespeare was always so poetic

  • This is just the reprint of the text from a Doonesbury strip: note the G. Trudeau byline. "Bite the Wax Tadpole" is also a hoax. See for more information on the Madonna hoaz, and for the "Bite the Wax Tadpole" hoax.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's just down the road from Paris, Texas.
  • This is not really a translation, but an equally silly mistake:
    A western pharmaceutical company placed advertisement billboards by the side of the highways in Saudi arabia. To make them universally understandable, the boards were in the form of 3 pictures: first a picture of a man who is clearly ill, grasping his head in pain. Next a picture of that man taking one of the advertised pills, and finally to the left a picture of the same man looking happy and healthy again.
    It never occurred to them that in Saudi arabia people are used to reading from right to left, and not from left to right.
  • OK, who else besides me had flashbacks to those old Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Martin & Akroyd as two horny Czeck brothers? The dialog in these sketches was virtually identical to this transcript. For example, the phrase "big American breasts" comes to mind.
  • Japanese is even worse.

    Every beginning Japanese textbook I've ever seen leads off sentences with "Watashi wa..." ("I am"). This is purely a concession to Westerners who the authors feel would have trouble with a language which is (1) highly context-sensitive, with the bare minimum needed for understanding being said (this mimimum being far less than one would assume in English) and (2) where one almost never refers to oneself (in this manner).

    To lift an example from something I once read, a Japanese textbook would typically include examples like:

    "Watashi wa Hayashi desu. Watashi wa gakusei desu". This is meant to be equivalent to "My name is Hayashi. I'm a student." but in fact sounds totally fake and mechanical and translates more closely as "It is I who is Hayashi. It is I who is the student". The only time you'd really say something like this is if there was some confusion about *who* was Hayashi and/or the student. In real life, you'd say something like "Hayashi desu. Gakusei desu."

    Textbook Japanese is always extremely polite and grammatically correct, but you'll sound like...well, like a bad translation engine. My sensei and I spend a lot of time teaching each other correct idiom in our respective languages. I'd like to encourage everyone out there (especially my fellow Americans :) to learn a second language! It's really fun, especially if you're a programmer type (might I be so bold as to suggest an Asian language most especially? They're the LISP to European languages' C or Pascal in that they force you think differently than the way you have been trained) and they're a great way to make new friends. Japanese people are always suprised when the big Southern white guy next to them starts speaking Japanese but so far I've had nothing but pleasant, educational experiences from doing so. Sorry for the rant.


  • I was reading the jennicam webpage a while back and she linked to an interview she did with, I am guessing a spanish magazine. Well it said something to the effect of "Jennifer K Ringley, 23 anos," and when babelfish translated it, it became "Jennifer K Ringley, 23 anuses" I quickly emailed her to inform her that she may suffer from multiple ass syndrome. Maybe that evil scientist from South Park got ahold of her. :)

  • My roomate one year in college was from Bangladesh. After one of his friends joked that he was such a stud, I said to him "You're such a ladies' man!"
    He responded in horror and got a bit flustered. A few minutes later, we were all surprised to find out that calling him a "ladies man" implied he was homosexual in his country...
  • indeed a good reason to abolish translations.
  • Unless of course the textbook you're referring to is one of those "Making Out in Japanese" books...

    "Kireina karada dane! Motto fukaku!"
    (Translation is an exercise left to the reader...)

  • wasn't there another one where "Coke Adds Life" came out "Coke brings back your dead relatives" or something to that affect?

  • This post has been translated into German via Babelfish, and then translated back into English
    This reminds of me something fun, which I had a while rear side with some friends. By translating simply all my email with babelfish translated into another language (normally German) and back into our native tongue, you are left with an approximate value of the so not flowing loudspeaker. Granted, he is not necessarily in the best taste, but we are not necessarily the most diplomatic bundle of the people. More info at FOBONICS []
    ------------------------------------------------ ----------
  • I suspect you aren't old enough to have been around to be able to fairly judge the stupidity, or lack thereof, of the phrase "top banana" when it was current. If you had been, you'd probably have thought it to be the cat's pajamas.

  • It was just a rumor. People really weren't really moderating posts up just because they said "you'll probably moderate this down". Those really were the cream of the crop, and just happened to be modest at the same time. But here this post comes along and bursts my little threshold-2 bubble. No content whatsoever, yet it gets moderated up. The only possible explanation is the sig.

    Oh well, I guess I asked for it, coming to browse the comments on non-news... :) And I don't really think it's that bad, 'coz I could have moderated it down rather than responding...

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle