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One of the most potent stories about language is the Tower of Babel. It occurs in Genesis 11. In the account, all humanity began by speaking a single language, even after exile from the Garden of Eden, and the tower is not exactly a mark of pride, nor is the curse of multiple languages exactly a scourge. Instead, the Tower is the natural consequence of the migrating people settling into a city, and "And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6). The confusion of the languages is to keep humans frustrated and wandering, to keep them from achieving their goal of "(making) a name for ourselves."

Pieter Breugel the Elder's "Little Tower of Babel"
Babel came to be seen as a second Fall, or at least a second exile, when man's fundamental punishment -- being denied communion with God -- was amplified through being denied communion in society. However, until the twentieth century linguists (excepting people like Ludovico Vico) believed that words derived from things, or things were manifestations of ideas (and so were words), and the division of languages and loss of the original language meant loss of magical and spiritual power.

I recommend Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language for the medieval to enlightenment European invention of linguistics as a side effect of the quest for the pre-Babel tongue.

For every person mounting Pegasus to overtop Babel, there have been five standing on the plains below having a giggle at our human noise and ten, at least, offering to translate for a fee. John Gay has a very funny letter to Mrs. Howard complaining about how he only knew French poetry; thus, to say that they went hunting, he would have to write that they had declared war against the feathered inhabitants of the air.

Americans have been accused of monoglot ignorance for a very long time, but American humorists have avenged themselves by making fun of the affectation of other languages. Even better, American authors have wondered at translations of idiomatic Americanisms. The new nation generated new environments, and the adaptations immigrants made to each other and the land made for colorful habits of voice.

Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was originally published in 1867, and it was a hit. In 1875, Twain published "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which is one of the funnier things you can read. It is an account of Twain reading his own story translated into French and then translating the French back into English. Click this link and enjoy.

"'Rev. Leonidas W. H'm, Reverend Le--well, there was a feller here, once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of '49 --or maybe it was the spring of '50--I don't recollect exactly, somehow, though what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big flume warn't finished when he first come to the camp; but anyway, he was the curiousest man about always betting on anything that turned up you ever see, if he could get anybody to bet on the other side; and if he couldn't he'd change sides.'" Becomes
"It there was one time here an individual known under the name of Jim Smiley; it was in the winter of '89, possibly well at the spring of '50, I no me recollect not exactly. This which me makes to believe that it was the one or the other, it is that I shall remember that the grand flume is not achieved when he arrives at the camp for the first time, but of all sides he was the man the most fond of to bet which one have seen, betting upon all that which is presented, when he could find an adversary; and when he not of it could not, he passed to the side opposed."
Inspired by Twain's retranslation of a translation, there was a "Babelfish" game that people would play to get comic results in the early years of the world-wide web. ("Babelfish" comes from the universal translating parasite in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Infocom game by the same name was legendary for the absurd lengths one had to go to in order to get the Babelfish.) I remember seeing the game played in the early naughts, but it doesn't work any more.

There are reliable ways of "breaking" machine translation, but Google Translate has killed the Babelfish game. . . sort of. Follow me, below, and I will show you two attempts to break Google Translate, the Googlefish experiment, and then an example of Google Translate failing on something easy -- along with a potential explanation for why.

The reason Twain's story ended up in questionable French and worse English is in the denotation ("dictionary" meaning) and connotation ("associated" meaning, or meanings from symbol and cultural convention) split, and the proliferation of syntactic units that are unique to given speech communities known as idioms. When Gregor Samsa is killed by an apple lodging in his carapace in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, young students will say that the apple "is a symbol." Strictly speaking, this is not correct. "Apple" was a symbol once, but by the 1920's it had been a symbol for so long "apple" carries symbolic associations without any symbolic discourse. Thus, "fruit of sin" and "knowledge of good and evil" belong to associations of the apple, and Kafka does not have to make the apple into a symbol -- it already has the symbolism in it as a set of connotations.

One reason poetry is very difficult for second language readers is that it traffics in connotation. Modernist poetry, in particular, traffics in connotation and syntactic displacement to foreground terms.
In Ezra Pound's "Middle Aged," we get:

"'Tis but a vague, invarious delight.
As gold that rains about some buried king.

As the fine flakes,
When tourists frolicking
Stamp on his roof or in the glazing light
Try photographs, wolf down their ale and cakes
And start to inspect some further pyramid;

As the fine dust, in the hid cell beneath
Their transitory step and merriment,
Drifts through the air, and the sarcophagus
Gains yet another crust
Of useless riches for the occupant,"

where the "As" repeats in an unusual place to remind us that we have one very, very long comparison, and we have no object yet. English delivers "as, so" in pairs, and we can set up compound objects on either side of the analogy, but it feels unnatural, suspenseful, or confusing. This "as" does not meet its "so" until more than half-way through the poem, and the "so" reveals that the poet is now admired and unable to love; the suspension of the syntax mirrors the message of power without potency. It demonstrates, for English speakers, that "middle age" is "waiting."

Another element of language that isn't in the dictionary is idiom. Native speakers are generally unaware of their idioms. George Carlin was good at pointing out the irrationality of English idioms. Why do we get "on" a bus, he wondered, but "in" a car? Shouldn't we get "in" an airplane, rather than "on" one? An obvious case of idiom is the use of "the." There is some logic for "the" over "a," but when to require an article ultimately comes down to speech community. On the other hand (and that is an idiom), French uses "faire" (to make) in a number of idiomatic constructions. A literal translation, "We will make a party," sounds silly, because the idiom is not present in English, but a literal translation of "I just saw the doctor for my condition" into another language would be "I went to view the doctor as part of my habit of being."

1. Babelfishing Key 1: One way to break a machine translation is to use idioms. In English, this means prepositional phrases.
2. Babelfishing Key 2: Stretch syntax beyond an algorithm's capacity to resolve the object/referent relationship.
3. Babelfishing Key 3: Push every button on the elevator in the Tower of Babel: Translate from one language family to another to another before returning.

The last of these keys is obvious. The more one understands of language families, the easier it is to make a translation difficult. The reason is not because the languages are inherently more or less alien to one another. "Language" shares "human," after all. Rather, languages in different families are historically remote from one another. The farther one language is from another in "family," the farther that language is in time from being a shared tongue, the farther the speakers are in time from being one community. Therefore, separate language families will reflect as much divergence as is reasonably possible between material cultures, all else being equal, and this means that the expectations and habits embedded in language will be distant, too.

English is an analytical language. Latin and ancient Greek are synthetic languages. Word order and word placement determines meaning, rather than word ending, and that means that we multiply prepositional phrases and pronouns. Hence it is that when we construct very elaborate sentences that employ many relative clauses without the use of simple compounds, or embed negatives and qualifiers, such as I am attempting to do at present, stringing out the meaning and asking the reader to hold onto the primary object while admitting qualifications, then a computer program which is looking at 'verb, helping verb, main verb' can get tangled, and this is particularly true if one merely implies a subject or switches between various voices and moods of verb by, should such an occasion arise, the use of a subjunctive or vocative.

Therefore, I set out, after many years of giving it a rest, to break Google Translate.

I had two pieces of objectionable English. The first used metaphor and idiom (but not slang -- slang is easy to machine translate), and the second used as arachnid a sentence structure as I thought might be found in real life. I then took the passages from English to French, French to German, German to Russian, Russian to Spanish, Spanish to English. My goal was to move within Indo-European languages, but to hop back and forth between branches and limbs, between conserved and non-conserved languages.

What was surprising was that . . . well, see for yourself.

Original text: English, spider sentences:
"Since any victory in Afghanistan, even a putative one, is out of reach for U.S. and NATO troops that have spent more than a decade pursuing counter-insurgency tactics instead of a program oriented toward taking and holding territory, the real question for the publics of the nations whose troops are represented must be not whether or not there has been a "win," but what sort of political, military, and cultural entity they will be willing to endure in the political boundaries of Afghanistan. The answer to this question, in turn, will undoubtedly hinge upon what the men with guns and dollars want to do with, and about, Hamid Karzai. If the military powers seek only stability -- a government under any head, under any ideology, under any method -- that can speak with one voice and enact what it says in all areas of the territory, then Taliban is better than Karzai. If these powers seek human rights reflective of the charter of the United Nations, then nothing in place now resembles what they seek. If the powers want a political state -- meaning a place whose people think of themselves as being Afghanistani, who think of duty to the government of the nation immediately after duty to God and family, a place where people think that any person born in the nation is as good as any other person born in any other place -- then the tribal government of Karzai is the opposite of satisfactory. Only by knowing the answer to "what kind of place does Afghanistan need to be so that we never feel the need to interfere with it again" can we fix a goal and work backward to methods by which we might achieve that goal. If the United States and other members of NATO have made such a policy decision, they seem to have kept it secret."
Resulted in:
"Since the victory in Afghanistan also alleged that the scope of U.S. and NATO troops, who have spent more than ten years pursued counterinsurgency tactics and decision-oriented program is not holding territory, if the real question for the countries represented audience whose troops, not whether it is "victory" but what is the political, military and cultural community will be willing to bear the political boundaries of Afghanistan. The answer to this question is no doubt that the weapons and dollars are based men to make and Hamid Karzai. If only military powers seek stability of government within the same chapter , under the ideology of a process - to speak with one voice and take what he says can be used in all areas of the country, while the Taliban better than Karzai. When these forces that seek to reflect the Charter of Human Rights , there is nothing of Nations in place now seem to want . If the authorities want the political state - the only place it as the Afghan people who think that immediately after the service of God and family , a place where people believe that the government means that the nation was born everyone in the nation , as well as any other person born elsewhere - while the tribal government Karzai is the opposite of good. This is just to know the answer to the question "What is this place in Afghanistan, did not feel the need to intervene again and again, " We can set a goal and work backwards to the methods to achieve this goal. If the United States and other NATO members have taken a decision in this type of policy, seems to have kept secret."
Funny? I don't think so. In fact, it seems more that there are lacunae than laugh lines coming out of the cracks in the translation. After that many passes, the information should have vanished altogether, and yet, even though the end result doesn't make sense, the original wasn't all that coherent to begin with. Google Translate should have died on that passage, and it merely caught a cold.

Let's try the other extreme -- something from the realm of catty Hollywood reporting.

Original text: English, idiomatic
"Ever since bomb that was the re-cut "Star Wars," fans have quaked as studios baked, and stinker after stinker has come out in a gold plated coffin. There are "reboots," and there are all-new 3-D versions that contain no new footage. Moviegoers get R-rated cynicism long before they can see an R-rating in the theater. What sort of innocence would it take to go see a new "Wizard from Oz" that can't include any material from the L. Frank Baum books? How old and young is the audience to remember the black and white "Lone Ranger" show with its single big rock and want to see it as a movie with Johnny Depp? What Adderal junkie is going to find drama in a movie about a Hasbro toy jive talking? If Hollywood were anything but an MBA, if it were a place or a mindset for film making, then it would have committed suicide shooting itself with an unloaded gun.
Result:
Since the pump recut fans of "Star Wars" shook the study of the bakery, and after turnip turnips came in a golden coffin. There is a "reset", and there are all new version in 3 - D, containing new images. Viewers cynicism R-rated, long before they see the R-rated drama. What innocence to go see the new "Wizard of Oz" can not contain any material from the books of L. Frank Baum? As young and old is a black & white audience, "The Lone Ranger" will remember the show with her a large stone and want to look like a movie with Johnny Depp? What Adderall addict find in a movie theater on a Hasbro toy Jive Talk? If Hollywood was not an MBA if it was a place or state of mind to make movies, it would be suicide to shoot themselves to be his weapon.
Ok, I admit that that's pretty good. I don't know where the "pump" came from. "Depuis bombe," "Da die Bombe," Poskol'ku bomba," "Dado que la bomba," and then "Since the pump" shows up from out of Google Translate's magical fairy dust. I promise that I did not study the bakery, either.

Still in all, what's amazing is how not entirely awful the translations are. The gist of the second one is lost amid a flurry of word play (which was cheating on my part), but Google Translate is actually performing Atlean tasks (there's a word for you, folks).

Is this success due to the genius of the program and the assured superiority of Google? Well, no. The success of these translations proves how bad machine translation is, because their successes prove how much the machines are using human beings. Want me to prove it?

The man you know as Flann O'Brien you might also know as Brian O'Nolan, although he was also Brian Nolan. He was also Myles na gCopaleen, and he was a genius. An Irish writer in the generation after Joyce, he had little choice but to grapple with the great man's shadow. He got into Trinity claiming to have done an interview with James Joyce's father, but Richard Ellmann told a class I had with him that there was no evidence that John Joyce ever gave an interview to anybody. (Opinion now favors the idea that Nolan did get the interview, but that's opinion for you.)

For decades, O'Nolan, as he called himself when he was home, wrote a column for The Irish Times as Myles na gCopaleen, and the collections of the columns are essentials for any civilized house. The writings would cover any topic, and they would veer into Latin without warning. In The Best of Myles, we get a passage called "The District Courts," where "The Da" is arrested and proves a difficult defendant, not least for speaking in Latin.

"The Sergeant said that it was now necessary to charge defendant with loitering, trespass and burglary.
Defendant: Loquitur Agamemnon.
Continuing, the Sergeant said that defendant had been treated with great latitude by the court the previous day and allowed out on bail. When released from Mountjoy, however, he refused to quit the premises and had to be ejected.
Justice: How?
Sergeant: With a hose.
1 Defendant: Pro di immortales! Quid?
The Sergeant asked the justice to hear a warder as to defendant's condition. In the court of his evidence, the warder said: "This man is infested be hoppers."
Justice: Hoppers? What is a hopper?
Defendant: (excitedly to Justice): 2 Habeo igitur quod ex eum quaesisti, quod esset 'hopper.' Non est hopper, non sunt hoppers, ut dixit; quod ego verbum agnovi. 3 Sunt fratres minimi mei (de quibus lex non curat), numerus quorum generis late et varie diffusus est. 4 Sunt amici, sunt fideles milites nostri qui neque nocentes sunt nec natura improbi nec furiosi nec malis domesticis impedi! (Pointing toward warder.) 5 Nunquam putavi -- vera dicam! -- tantum esse in homine sceleris, audaciae, crudelitatis!
The Sergeant mentioned that defendant was continually conversing in this strain, leaving all as wise as if he were speaking double dutch.
That is one of the funnier things I've read. If, however, you need help, Latin is one of the languages that Google Translate can handle. Being an analytical language, where endings convey syntactic position, word order has no influence, and the language is almost easy as a computer program for decoding. Heck, if there were a language designed for a machine to translate, it's Latin. All the idioms are known, there isn't slang, the dictionaries are voluminous, and the rules are well etched.

Here is what Google Translate did with it, though:

"The Sergeant said that it was now necessary to charge defendant with loitering, trespass and burglary.
Defendant: Speaking of Agamemnon.
Continuing, the Sergeant said that defendant had been treated with great latitude by the court the previous day and allowed out on bail. When released from Mountjoy, however, he refused to quit the premises and had to be ejected.
Justice: How?
Sergeant: With a hose.
1 Defendant: Immortal gods! What?
The Sergeant asked the justice to hear a warder as to defendant's condition. In the court of his evidence, the warder said: "This man is infested be hoppers."
Justice: Hoppers? What is a hopper?
Defendant: (excitedly to Justice): 2 I have therefore that it is from him, beseech thee, that it would be 'Hopper.' It is not Hopper, they are not Hooper, As she said this, which I have the word I recognized him. There are the least of my brothers (of which the law does not care), the number of which kind of wide, and is scattered abroad in various ways. There are friends, are the faithful our soldiers who have neither criminals nor madmen, nor men that are not wicked by nature, domestic baggage! (Pointing toward Ward.) I never thought - I'll tell the truth! - Only be in a man of the crime, of daring, of cruelty!
The Sergeant mentioned that defendant was continually conversing in this strain, leaving all as wise as if he were speaking double dutch.
Excuse me? If you didn't get the jokes in Latin, you sure won't get them in this translation. "Only be in a man of the crime?" Would a seventh grade student make such a mistake? Google Translate, which had been capable of juggling four modern languages at the same time, seems to have had a slight malfunction. It doesn't recognize the pun, of course, on the "non lex curat," but it also breaks its noggin on the implied pronouns of Latin, doesn't recognize allusions, and makes a fool of itself in general.

Why would Google Translate be so good that it could survive a torture test with modern languages and so bad that it falls apart on elementary Latin? The answer is that Google scours human translations. Its algorithm learns by checking the web against human translators, and there aren't so many of those with Latin.

Oh, and for my very doubtful translation of the Latin, here it is:

1: Out, by the gods! Where" ("Quo" can mean "where" in poetry.)
2. Immortal gods! What?
3: "I have it, and therefore it came from him, I beseech you, 'it' being the "Hopper." It is not a Hopper"; they are not "Hoppers." Thus he calls them, but this is not the word by which I know them."
4: There are the least of my brothers (for which the law offers no remedy), the number of which is scattered abroad in various ways and of a wide race.
5: There are my friends, they are my faithful who comprise neither criminals nor madmen, nor men that are wicked by nature, you domestic baggage! (Pointing toward warder.)
6: I never thought - I swear truly! - of being a man of crime, daring, or cruelty!
The old man calling his fleas his "fratres minimi mei" cracks me up, and getting in the "de minimis lex non curat" (there are things too minor for the law to remedy) is brilliant.

So, what does this all mean? We end where we began, with Babel. The sin of Babel was pride. Google Translate has gotten extremely good by silently scrubbing the work of humans and blending it with the speed of artificial intelligence. It has gotten so good, in fact, that we can be tempted to see translation as an invisible act, as something automatic and, most dangerously of all, lossless. We can forget the opacity of language, forget that in language the container is the content. Therefore, when a banner at the top of Google Translate invites you to try Chrome with automatic web page translating turned on, it is offering to sell you a penthouse suite at the top of Babel.

When we push the button for the basement and make Translate show us its own work, without cribbing from humans, we can hear the familiar strain of strain again, see the familiar need for human agents, note the role of a translator as a person who speaks multiple cultures that just happen to use separate words from one another.

Originally posted to A Frayed Knot on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (34+ / 0-)

    "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

    by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 05:00:14 AM PDT

  •  ...so he DID mean the fleas..ha (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, jessical, No Exit

    that was fun. I "love" language. Wonder what the Google thinks of that?

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 05:51:01 AM PDT

  •  a possibly apocryphal re-translation (5+ / 0-)

    from English to Russian and back:
    "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"=>
    "The vodka is strong but the meat is rotten"

    also, here's one to give the machine a headache:
    "Fruit flies like rotten apples"

  •  We in the puzzle group often like (5+ / 0-)

    Bad Translations puzzles.

    We start with a set of quotes - say, famous quotes from movies - and run them through the Bad Translator engine. The result, along with the year of the film, is posted in the diary. The challenge is to figure out the original quote.

    The puzzle style was invented by our beloved founder Julie Wolf, and expanded by science.

    Here is an example:

    1 today i feel like people all over the world - 1942
    2 When you have set up the future - 1989
    3 This will help you to stay organized - 1933
    4 He has a daughter, sister and me - 1974
    5 My friend, but more hate - 1974
    6 TSP does not exist - 1999
    7 I was fine, but bathroom is better - 1933
    8 Relationship with you on a regular basis as the people who know how - 1939
    9 Are you looking for enough rage and the dog - 1939
    10 If you have found a gold ring and angel wings - 1946
    11 I was surprised. Fortunately, there is - 1942
    12 Lovely there. And I have a few pictures - 1950
    13 Life and more powerful suckers, poor and hungry - 1958
    14 A young mother, a good friend of mine - 1960
    15 Mr President, the requirement - 1968
    16 The next step, and it may be black - 1974
    17 Back wax - 1974
    18 Someone who put the child in the yard - 1987
    19 To continue using the name, think about what this means - 1987
    20 It is also the fan - 1990
    The answers may be found in these diaries:

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    In creating these puzzles, I began to notice how Google Translate works. Apparently, it takes from the mass of web pages out there that exist in more than one language to make assumptions about how idiomatic speech should be translated. It's actually getting much harder to do a bad translation.

    Yes, DailyKos DOES have puzzles! Visit us here Saturday nights @ 5:00 PDT (easier puzzles) and Sunday nights @ 5:00 PDT (more challenging) for a group solving. Even if you just pop in and comment while watching the fun, everybody is welcome. uid:21352

    by pucklady on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 07:41:49 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pucklady, No Exit, a gilas girl

      It's using human translators to check its assumptions, as well, by looking for prior iterations of such phrases. This makes it nearly bullet proof. I was stunned by my spider sentence surviving as intact as it did. The "Hollywood Reporter-ese" passage was more of a sucker bet (and that's why I had it second; it was my ace in the hole), but, darn it, the idea that human translators are finding it difficult to find employment because business believes that machine translation is sufficient is a bit beyond ironic.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:42:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  English As She Is Spoke (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, No Exit, a gilas girl

    is a book introduce to America my Mark Twain. It is purported to be a Portuguese/English phrase book written with the help of a French/ Portuguese dictionary and than a French/English dictionary. Whether or not it is a true book, it is funny.

    English As She Is Spoke

    Familiar Phrases.

      Go to send for.
      Have you say that?
      Have you understand that he says?
      At what purpose have say so?
      Put your confidence at my.
      At what o'clock dine him?
      Apply you at the study during that you are young.
      Dress your hairs.
      Sing an area.
      These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in mouth.
      How do you can it to deny?
      Wax my shoes.
      That is that I have think.
      That are the dishes whose you must be and to abstain.
      This meat ist not too over do.
      This ink is white.
      This room is filled of bugs.
      This girl have a beauty edge.
      It is a noise which to cleave the head.
      This wood is fill of thief's.
      Tell me, it can one to know?
      Give me some good milk newly get out.
      To morrow hi shall be entirely (her master) or unoccupied.
      She do not that to talk and to cackle.
      Dry this wine.
      He laughs at my nose, he jest by me.
      He has spit in my coat.

    “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

    by se portland on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:20:51 AM PDT

  •  Nice essay!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, No Exit, a gilas girl

    Google translate doesn't seem lossless, at this juncture :}. But I really appreciate the ability to begin to make sense of things, or to compare to my own bad translations of things as a starting place.

    I want better word by word mouseover dictionaries -- conjugation and participating idiom in a popup.  I used to have a bad Nederlands program that did some of that -- still don't own a good one (though I'd happily spend the bucks if anyone has a recommendation).

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:32:39 AM PDT

    •  I admit I use 'em (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, a gilas girl

      I just don't like the idea that human translators are losing work.

      I only have Anglo-Saxon, Latin and French (a bit) at this point, and I can admire the heck out of a serious translation. Heaney's Beowulf does great stuff. (There is a new translation that I applaud and don't, alternately. It's very, very bold, but it makes me itch.) There is such art necessary.

      This is obvious with literary translation, but it's only a question of degree for everyday language, and when I have my web page translate a Swedish newspaper or something I just get depressed. Yes, I get a sentence or three, but I miss paragraphs.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 10:45:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre, a gilas girl

        ...for those of us who must muddle by with no translators and our own half-assed language educations, any help is a fine thing.  But then, I'm the kind of person who uses Mathematica to get at a set of ODEs before I start hacking them by hand :}  But the same thing applies....I'll probably be a language learner, rather than someone with fluency, all my life.  I have no problem with using tools, but I wish they were more keyed to those who were learning, rather than pretending to an orbicular completeness.  There are so many context cues and important pieces of information implicit in a reasonable automatic translation...I know it would help me if the bones were more visible.

        Love Heaney's Beowulf.  It was the first audiobook I ever bought, and I have it on (heh) cassette tape.  

        ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

        by jessical on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 01:20:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Credit where credit is due (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Powered Grace, a gilas girl

    and a tip of the windscreen to Douglas Adams, who coined the term "babelfish" in the first place.

    ... all that oration sounds like capitulation now.

    by Darwinita on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 12:26:13 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely. I keep my towel with me always (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darwinita, a gilas girl

      I think his danger-sensitive sunglasses are probably on their way to full development in the near future, too. (My great contribution to Douglas Adams studies is that Arthur Dent predicament is probably modeled on Edward Pilgrim -- a real case and cause celebre in the UK in the 1960's.)

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 01:28:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can round-trip translation help with writing? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    Let's assume that I want to write a message in English that will be properly understood in (for example) Russian, without my being able to check the quality of the result directly.

    My question is: Can I expect a good result, if I translate text from English to Russian and back to find defects, and then rephrase the text in English, while I do not like the result?

    Can I expect a good result if I used this method with several languages ​​, and then revised the text in order to avoid problems in [a] general and more reliable way?
    --------------------------

    The above not-very-idiomatic text meets a more stringent test: aside from the inserted "a", it reads word for word the same after being translated to and from Russian.

    Here is the Russian version – any opinions?

    --------------------------

    Давайте предположим, что я хочу написать сообщение на английском языке, что будет правильно понят в (например) русском, без моего будучи в состоянии проверить качество результата напрямую.

    Мой вопрос: Могу ли я рассчитывать на хороший результат, если я перевести текст с английского на русский и обратно, чтобы найти дефекты, а затем перефразировать текст на английском языке, в то время как я не люблю результат?

    Могу ли я рассчитывать на хороший результат, если я использовал этот метод с несколькими языками, а затем пересмотрела текст для того, чтобы избежать проблем в целом и более надежный способ?

    ----------------------------

    And here's a round-trip text without iterative rewrites:

    Above is not very idiomatic-text corresponds more stringent test conditions: on the side of the inserted "and" after he reads translated into the language and Russian.

    Here Russian version - any opinions?

    ----------------------------

    Fun game, no? / Забавная игра, не так ли? A fun game, is not it?

    A fun game, I think. / Забавная игра, я думаю. / A fun game, I think.

    Yes? / Да? / Yes?

    •  Single pass is accurate and worse (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      Indeed, Google Translate is excellent with living modern languages. A single pass with return ticket ought to be nearly lossless, and that makes this a useful tool.

      I wanted to point out:
      1. It is this good because it checks against human translators
      1A: Machine AI is not sufficient yet for very reliable translation.
      2. We can increase the likelihood of success by avoiding archaism, regional idioms, and shifts in mood. We can also increase chances of success by having stated subjects and verbs with unique pronouns near their antecedents.

      The breakdown of Google Translate with Latin, which should be an "easy" language, probably shows us where AI translation really is. If, though, you are going to translate in a modern language, it is the presence of all of those anonymous translators on the Internet that assures you that Google Translate is a trustworthy tool.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 04:35:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This bears repeating multiple times: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre
        If, though, you are going to translate in a modern language, it is the presence of all of those anonymous translators on the Internet that assures you that Google Translate is a trustworthy tool.
        Thank you for both an entertaining and thought-provoking essay. I've shared it with my translator friends.  

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 06:52:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have a friend I call "The Pronoun Man". (4+ / 0-)

    I have a friend and colleague that I always refer to as "The Pronoun Man", because he always thinks everyone knows exactly what he is talking about all the time and always uses a pronoun whenever he could instead of the corresponding noun.

    So I'd get gems like this from him: "Would you get that from him and send it out to them right away!" Since we were always dealing with several projects at the same time I had no idea which project in particular he was talking about, so I would reply "Get what from whom and send it where?" And then he would say "Oh, you know what I mean!" My friend is a great guy, but that kind of stuff would drive me (and others) positively nuts. Plus our supervisor disliked pronouns (and acronyms)--so in our reports to him he wanted most pronouns replaced with their corresponding nouns, and all acronyms replaced with their full names (at least for the first several occurrences until it was clear what the acronym meant). Needless to say I ended up doing most of the proofreading of our reports so that "No-Pronoun Boss" wouldn't get confused by "The Pronoun Man".

    I have this dream of someday writing a book with one of the characters being "The Pronoun Man"--he will be an obfuscatory and confusing delight! Pronouns have a place, but too many can drive a man to drink.

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

    by dewtx on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 02:34:34 PM PDT

    •  "You" and "Them" have "It" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx, a gilas girl, HeyMikey

      Argh! Remote reference and ambiguous reference pronouns are the pits. I'm going to guess that Pronoun Man is over 30.

      For whatever reason, and I really can't guess it, the Millennials don't have the pronoun reference errors that turned my eyes Bob Costas red in the late 1980's. I suspect they are used to writing in very, very, very short media, and therefore they are accustomed to having to state the subjects.

      That said, they still drown in "you" and "they" as well as "throughout" and "it." Whenever I see "you" in a paper, I see it as a challenge to see if I can come up with a smart ass comment. As for the "it" and "they," I just ask them why they don't replace every noun and pronoun with "stuff," because that's tantamount to what they've written.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 04:41:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, he's over 30 x 2! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, ... there are few die well that die in a battle; ... Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; — Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

        by dewtx on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 05:06:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Interviewing clients... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dewtx, The Geogre

        I'm a lawyer. I've interviewed a lot of clients. Common situation: client describes situation that led to his/her legal problem, with lots of "he" did this, and "she" promised that, and "he" said the other thing on the phone. I interrupt with basic questions:

        Who is "he?" Who is "she?" Not just names, but titles--was "he/she" the doctor, or the nurse? The manager of the business in question, or the owner, or just somebody who happened to be there that day to deliver a package? Was "he/she" that you talked to the third time about your problem the same "he/she" that you talked to the first or second time?

        Often, of course, it turns out the client doesn't know the answer to these questions.

        Imprecise language is still a red flag for imprecise thinking.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 10:09:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely: Our "advanced comp." is legal writing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey, dewtx

          In our dept., the "Advanced Composition" class is a class in legal writing (lite). Students seem stunned to learn IRAC and the need to find the facts of the case. Their last assignment is to take a journalistic write up of something that is pending in civil court and write up an "issue, rule, analysis, conclusion" brief. I can usually tear them apart by simply asking them, "What does that have to do with anything? What are the facts?" over and over, because they get caught up in the story and miss the facts as relevant to the rule.

          I spoke to a policeman over Christmas who said that most of his witness reports were worthless, because they were "he" and "she" over and over again -- sometimes without the writer ever listing the names of the parties involved.

          "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

          by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 10:56:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Loquitur Agamemnon (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Marko the Werelynx

    "Agememnon speaks"

    How did GT get a genitive out of that? Weirdness.

    But to get my excellent translation into your entry, you'll need to adjust your numbering to include that one :-) (You repeat 1)

     What a well thought-out experiment. I've wondered why the Latin translations aren't good for much beyond simple dictionary lookups.

    •  Thank you; I knew I'd blown Aga... ahem. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx, Vince CA

      I knew I didn't know about that 'Loquitur Agamemnon.' It's an allusion. I know it's an allusion, but I can't nail it down.

      "Agamemnon speaks" is funny enough. The warden goes to testify, and the Da says it sarcastically. (I still think it's a reference some way to Aeschylus, even though it can't be.)

      I saw, too late, that I had munged my numbers. Worse, I messed up on the "where." GT is closer, but it clearly doesn't mean "what": it's part of an idiomatic expression.

      I didn't have space, and I didn't want to run afoul of copyright, but I also tested Translate with Horace, where I had a Loeb's diaglot edition, and GT wasn't even on the same continent as the Loeb translation. (For anyone who doesn't know, Loeb editions are classic Classics, and the translations they offer are mechanically literal. They intentionally translate with no ear for charm, just exactness.)

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 04:48:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought it was a reference to the Illiad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        loitering - hanging around Troy for nine friggin' years with massive army
        trespassing - he (arguably) had no right to be in Troy in the first place. It was his brother's wife and his brother's throne that was at risk without Helen, not his
        burglary - Briseis

        I get the sense that it's supposed to be the Da saying something like, "like you're one to judge" or "Pot, kettle, black."

        A more poetic rending might be "Thus spoke Agamemnon".  I'd go with "Agamemnon, takes one to know one, eh?" but that's way too long to convey the sarcasm.

        •  Thus spoke Agamemnon, indeed (0+ / 0-)

          I think you're right on the spot, there.

          I had thought of Agamemnon returned and Aeschylus's play, where he gets the (not going to try the Greek font), "Omoi, peplein" or whatever it is -- "I am struck!" He says this as Aegisthus stabs him in the bath.

          I've always considered it one of the funniest lines in Greek tragedy -- a guy narrating his own murder. "Alas! I am struck a blow! Alas! They strike again, deeply!"

          What we're both saying, though, is that Myles was brilliant. (His scheme for "Buchhandling" cracks me up every time I read it.)

          "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

          by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 06:01:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Delightful...funniest translation/retranslation (4+ / 0-)

    anecdote I know is John Steinbeck's widow visiting a bookstore in Japan and being told 'we love your husband's book 'The Angry Raisins'.'

    Armed! I feel like a savage! Barbarella

    by richardvjohnson on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 03:55:47 PM PDT

  •  FYI - The Hitchhiker's Guide Game is 30 years old (3+ / 0-)

    The BBC is hosting the game on their web site if you want to get your own Babelfish...
    Hitchhiker's Guide Game

    •  Yes! The game! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      I'm worried, a little, that my snobbery will be shattered. I remember that Kings Quest was the first to have graphics and mouse work, and I thought, at the time, that it was boring compared to the text line adventure of the good Infocom game. I fear that it won't be captivating and that that will either show that I have been heathenized or that I was wrong back then.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 03:53:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And some translations are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, a gilas girl

    lost before they're begun.

    riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend   
    of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
    Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-   
    core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy   
    isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor   
    had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse   
    to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper   
    all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to   
    tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a   
    kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in   
    vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe.
    •  How did they know if there was a typo? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      I know the "corrected" Ulysses came along, and that prompted a big argument among us Serious Types, but, with Finnegans Wake, how can anyone tell?

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 03:57:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very nice piece. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, a gilas girl
    For every person mounting Pegasus to overtop Babel, there have been five standing on the plains below having a giggle at our human noise and ten, at least, offering to translate for a fee.
    A jewel of a sentnece!  Engaging figure, well fitted out.
    Bravo!

    Almost nothing has a name.

    by johanus on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:25:32 PM PDT

    •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl, johanus

      I should have spent as much time fixing my Latin as I did ensuring that my metaphors extended all the way through. :-( Oh, well: if I ever finished a thing properly, there'd be no reason to go on living. (Oh, and I've been teaching Iliad and Odyssey in an independent study this semester, so the whole 'extended metaphor' thing may have been on my mind.)

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 04:00:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A Little Higher Than Expectations (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    Google Translate is still pretty frail, and I would not trust it on its own. But, it sure speeds things up. You just have to baby sit it, because, well, it's still in its infancy.

    That's why I click to see the alternative translations. If you do that, you might get something more like this (still far from perfect):

    Speaking of Agamemnon.
    ...
    Immortal gods! What?
    ...
    Therefore I have reason that from him to ask, what should be "hopper"? It is not the hopper, there are no hoppers, as he said, which I have the word recognized. There are the least of my brothers (of which the law does not care), the number of which kind wide is and scattered is varied. There are friends, are the faithful our soldiers who have neither criminals nor madmen, nor bad that are not wicked by nature, domestic baggage! I never thought - I'll tell the truth! - Only to be in a man of the crime, of daring, of cruelty!
    This being the translation after clicking on the iffy parts and picking the most likely meaning.

    Perhaps I'd doctor that last part to say:

    Therefore I have reason [to ask him], what should be "hopper"? It is not hopper, there are no hoppers, as he said, which I have the word recognized. There are the least of my brothers (of which the law does not care), the number of which kind is scattered wide and varied. There are friends, are our faithful soldiers who [are] neither criminals nor madmen nor wicked by nature nor (pointing at the guy) bad domestic baggage! I never thought - I'll tell the truth! - only to be a man of crime, of daring, of cruelty!
    Is that what he said? My Latin certainly isn't good enough to know. But I think Translate at least provides the tool if not the intelligence to get something out of it.
    •  You're right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl, Liberal Thinking

      My concern is when business uses machine translation and then assumes that it no longer needs humans. We know that the machine is, in fact, leaning on hundreds of unknowingly volunteering translators. That's neither unethical nor worrisome, by itself -- it's smart -- but when it leads to Google making a claim that its browser can "automatically" translate any web page, it feeds into the mercantile assumptions.

      My problem is not with the tool, of course. My problem is with the forgetfulness and thoughtlessness of decisions by dollars.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 06:29:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  English->French->English by machine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" becomes
    "The wine is enthusiastic, but the meat is insipid."

    There's no such thing as a free market!

    by Albanius on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 03:52:49 AM PDT

  •  Philip K Dick predicted this in 1969 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    in his novel "Galactic Pot-Healer".

    Online encyclopedias, the Internet, and machine translation ... used by bored office workers to play games.

    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

    by raboof on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:10:41 AM PDT

    •  All but the "bored office workers" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raboof

      He missed the degree to which rapaciousness would have even the most functionary functionary working five jobs to save money and generate a bonus for a self-satisfied suit pudding. I suppose there are bored office workers, but they're still busy bored office workers, unless they're also managers -- in which case they're probably bored while planning a seminar on effective time management.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:42:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hereby offer the neologism "suit pudding" (0+ / 0-)

        To my knowledge it has not been used before, and yet it seems oddly apt for a particular class of management. Best of all, it is as ungendered as it is unproductive.

        "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

        by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:44:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What about the DuoLingo approach? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    DuoLingo is a smartphone app that will teach you a language you don't know.

    It's free. Which gets us to the interesting part...

    Once you get beyond an elementary level with DuoLingo, it gives you passages of business documents to translate into the language you're learning. And that's the key to DuoLingo's revenue--turns out the businesses are paying DuoLingo to get their documents translated by DuoLingo users.

    But wait--DuoLingo users are just learning a new language. Won't their translations be crappy?

    Well, DuoLingo uses some whizbang software algorithm to amalgamate translations from a lot of users, and to arrive at a consensus translation. Thus the human element is present, indeed essential, but it's collective instead of individual.

    Any guess at how this is going to work out? Compared to Google Translate?

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 10:00:24 AM PDT

    •  That's Hobson's choice, alright (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey

      You can have any horse you want, so long as it's by the door.

      It sounds as if DuoLingo is essentially replicating Google Translate but with an on-demand service for businesses. After all, GT is averaging the work of translators from web crawling and looking up phrase work, rather than whole sentences or documents, so GT should be more powerful, but DuoLingo will be better capitalized as a translating service.

      Users, for their part, have no reason not to choose the horse by the door, as it were, because, one way or another, that's the horse they're going to get. If they don't volunteer for DuoLingo, their own translations are still going to be examined and used if they're ever housed by a DNS listed server.

      Businesses are the only possible suckers in this game, as they are paying on a per-document basis instead of hiring personnel who can help their company in more ways than one.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 11:04:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  On second thought... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey

      DuoLingo should be better than Translate.

      Translate should be more powerful overall, because it is looking at all the translations of, let's say, "dispositivos" and then all the translations of the phrase "los dispositivos de los dioses." The result will be incredibly powerful. There is more muscle in GT than a small human base of translators.

      However, consider what broke GT's Latin, above!

      What broke GT's Babelfish game and its Latin translation was losing pronouns -- particularly relative pronouns. In business writing, in particular, there will be implied subjects. In business communications, we'll have inexpert writers who assume subjects and who drop reference. A group of human translators will be much better for business than the vast analytical power of a web scrub.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 11:10:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ah, I remember Babelfishing . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    The post below is the result of one of my experiments.

    http://www.netfunny.com/...

    "It carried a raspberry toque, the type, which you find in a used memory."

    "If you did not come to the part, do not take the trouble to strike my gate. I have a lion in my pocket, and baby, it is ready to howl."

    "It is what resembles that moment when the doves cry."

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is the first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk. Every state is totalitarian at heart; there are no ends to the cruelty it will go to to protect itself." -- Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 11:11:44 AM PDT

    •  Prince lyrics: brilliant! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geenius at Wrok

      "When pigeons shout" indeed.

      Poor old Babelfish to have gotten all of its rusty edges sanded down and to have had a new paint of coat.

      I remember visiting Europe at age 16 and a Dutch kid, aged 14, wanted me to help him understand some Rolling Stones lyrics. "What is a star f*cker?" he asked. Was it like motherf*cker, he asked. I asked how he knew that word, and he said they'd seen it in class, in a newspaper. He showed it to me, "Nixon is a motherf*cker."

      I said that the two were not very much alike at all.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 12:56:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A Frayed Knot, genius, only on KOS can we (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    find those who still seek enlighment.  Words have power, I loved every word of this diary.

    Umberto Eco is a challenge for me to read and comprehend.  The man is brilliant in Italian and/or a cacophony of voices and language that merge in resonance. (sorry, a bit over the top, my screen name is a homage)

    "I recommend Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language from (for-from sp police, my correction) the medieval to enlightenment European invention of linguistics as a side effect of the quest for the pre-Babel tongue."

    PS: I no longer subscribe to spell check, towers of babel, babelfish or google anything.

    •  "In res" (0+ / 0-)

      I had meant, for whatever it is worth, "I recommend Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language in regard to the matter of the invention of linguistics during the time periods from the medieval to the enlightenment in Europe as an unintended effect of a primary quest to recapture the Adamic language." The sentence was going to be tense one way or another, I'm afraid, and I think it tried to pack too much into too little a space.

      I also think that there were several coincident movements that helped create historical linguistics. One of them was, without a doubt, the dream of capturing the perfect language of Eden, and another was the dream of capturing a perfect language of ideas (a la mathematics). At the same time, that strange nationalistic itch that most European nations caught in the early eighteenth century led each to want to "save" or praise the beauties of its own language.

      Thank you for the kind words. This diary hung around for a long time, and I wish I had spent as much time polishing my Latin as I had my English.

      "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

      by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 12:50:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Geogre, your sig was enough for me to adore. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        Foolishly, I selected Latin as my foreign language in High School. Greek and Hebrew were after thoughts in my scholastic advisors' recommendations.

        •  Latina non fellat (0+ / 0-)

          Choosing Latin as one's second language is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there are the same few secondary authors one gets to read -- over and over -- but, on the other, there is all this sneaky Latin that shows up between the cracks of every other language. I don't mean as a loan or cognate, but as a set of borrowed phrases or concepts. When I explain to a class that "virtue" is "manly" in Classical discourse and "virtus" has "vir" in it, they act as if I'm doing deconstruction.

          (They want to know the answer to the big question: "Were all those Greeks gay?" For the bright ones, I say, "Read Foucault's History of Sexuality 2." For the rest, I say, "You define 'gay,' first. Then I'll answer, 'no.'"

          "man, proud man,/ Drest in a little brief authority,. . . Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/ As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,/ Would all themselves laugh mortal." -- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure II ii, 117-23

          by The Geogre on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 06:08:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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