To be annoying in Internet with style

The curse of Babel Fish – or, the limitations of computer-speak

Annoying... with style!This poster is, in its own delightful way, a summary of this blog’s aim, or at least the result: to be annoying, and with style if we can possibly manage it. It is an advertisement for an Internet cafe found in the lower station of the delightful funicular railway in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. On the left, the Italian reads: ‘Navigare in Internet con stile’, which I assumed had some relationship to ‘navigation’ – my Rough Guide phrasebook duly translates ‘navigare’ as ‘to sail’. The techno-savvy Internet Center had, however, sailed into the choppy waters of Altavista’s Babel Fish, for when I drop the Italian into the Babel Fish translation panel, it duly renders this in English as: ‘To be annoying in Internet with style’. Priceless, if also rather undermining the claim to ‘all that that others do not have’ – since there are many on the Internet, alas, who annoy. Recalling the original Babel story, we should not be surprised: ‘Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth’ (Genesis 11:9).

Just to demonstrate that the Italians can do things with style, even on a railway station, here are a couple of signs from Florence’s imposing Santa Maria Novella station – much better without translation.
Firenze: Binari Firenze: Dirigente Movimento

2 thoughts on “To be annoying in Internet with style”

  1. It seems that some recipients of Babel Fish magic are not amused. On November 6th, The Jerusalem Post reported: ‘Journalists’ junket to the Netherlands gets lost in translation’, telling how journalists sending an email to the Dutch Foreign Ministry ‘have sparked a major, major incident,’ said an official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry. ‘Sure he can’t understand many of the questions, because the English is so bad. But he is being asked about the sleeping arrangements of his mother!’. The article also explains how the computer became confused (unfortunately you can no longer read this online without paying).

    The Guardian picked up the story the next day with the headline: ‘How Babel Fish almost caused a diplomatic incident‘. As Jon Henley’s article concludes: ‘Amazing, the internet.’

  2. Hi Tom,

    Surely, The Guardian headline should have read; ‘How some incompetent journalist who cannot hire a real translator, who uses Babel Fish forgetting to check his results almost caused a diplomatic incident’.

    In Italian:

    “Certamente, il titolo del guardiano dovrebbe leggere; ‘come un certo giornalista incompetent che non può assumere un traduttore reale, che usa i pesci de Babele che si dimenticano di controllare i suoi risultati quasi ha causato un avvenimento diplomatico ‘.”

    Then back to Engrish:

    “Sure, the title it of the guardiano would have to read; ‘ like a sure journalist incompetent that it cannot assume a real translator, that Confusion uses the fish de that forget themselves to control its turns out has caused a diplomatic event to you nearly ‘.”

    Would you recommend this water to a friend?

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