Monday, May 02, 2005


Lost and Found in translation, or "the Shrub Line"

Exploring the wonders of "Googlation"

Do you fully appreciate the wonders of Google? Every time you think “Google simply can’t surprise me again,” it does. I would have been content with Google just by virtue of the fact that a search for the term “origami necktie” leads to my blog as the second hit. But recently, I've begun to explore the delights of a Google feature I’d never used before: “language tools.”

By clicking the tiny “language tools” link at the side of the search bar on Google’s home page, you get a text translator function that will translate blocks of text from English to any of several different languages, as well as translating blocks of text from those languages back into English.

For you wordies and linguistics buffs, this is actually a wonderful toy that could be good for hours of fun. All you have to do is take some English text, have Google translate it into another language, and then have Google re-translate it back into English.

Here’s an example. The first sentence I tried was very mundane – not unlike Alexander Graham Bell’s famous first words over his new invention, the telephone, “Watson, come here. I need you.” It was the first thing that popped into my head.
I am delighted to have a new ear piece for my cell phone.
Google-translating this into French and then back into English -- or "googlating," as I propose to call the English -- other language -- English process -- yields the following:
I am magic to have a new piece of ear for my telephone of cells.
I am magic indeed! By this point, I had gone through a linguistic looking glass and am now exploring a new world of infinite twisted potential.

The Bush Administration

Apparently, the phrase “the Bush Administration” is not quite translatable into "Googlish." Here is the googlation of “the Bush Administration” through the medium of selected other languages:
German: The Shrub Line

Portugese: The Administration Of The Shrub

Italian: The Management of the Bush

Japanese: Management
To refer to these as examples of a phrase “lost in translation” is to ignore the delightful nuances that are added by googlation. The Germans and Portugese adopt Molly Ivins’ satirical “shrub” for Bush, to which the Germans add the suggestion that the administration is simply a “line” – a series of rhetorical positions rather than a substantive governing institution, as in, perhaps, “a line of bullshit.”

The Italians’ “the Management of the Bush” seem to suggest a point I have argued, that Bush is not the decisionmaker, but is instead a front man run – managed – by his handlers.

The Japanese version is the most elegant. Like the minimalist form of the Haiku, the Japanese reduce the idea of the Bush Administration to a single character: not worker, not consumer, not citizen, but simply “management.”


I like the Portugese, myself. "The Administration of the Shrub" has a such a lovely medicinal flavor to it.

This is brilliant, by the way. I promise to credit you if I adopt Googlation as my new blog-post-filler of choice.
"I like the Portuguese" reminds me of the classic English as She Is Spoke.
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