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Translation and Posts Past April 16, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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So, I’ve been reading a book by Douglas Hofstadter called Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, which is primarily about translation and issues surrounding such things.

So, when I happened to run across this page, I could not help but be fascinated. I think it is supposed to be a translation of my recent blog post. That is, because it’s a blog from Quebec, it looks like it may have been translated into French and then back to English, with rather interesting results.

Here is a snippet of the “translation” I found:

We agitate on because unruffled the affliction of dejection, whether it be my feel discomfited affliction of her fine fantastic affliction, the affliction is more compelling than the be without of any scintilla at all.

We are bodily, this is unqualifiedly. predominantly What is not unqualifiedly is what resolution be done to hotfoot it at that minute comes. predominantly Imagine darkness. How resolution we crammed up to being, and how resolution we unruffled gash below acceptable on its affliction? predominantly If you do not embellishing it is conceivable to gash below acceptable on affliction, regard as of the delight you resolution not be having in the be without of any scintilla at all. predominantly You cannot.

The small amount brings here an awe within me that I cannot discover. predominantly It enthralls me and freezes me in a minute of existential fright….

and what I think is the original paragraphs from which it was derived:

…We move on because even the pain of sadness, whether it be my small pain of her great pain, the pain is more powerful than the lack of any feeling at all.

We are mortal, this is clear. What is not clear is what will be done before that moment comes. How will we celebrate life, and how will we even enjoy its pain? If you do not believe it is possible to enjoy pain, think of the enjoyment you will not be having in the lack of any feeling at all. Imagine oblivion. You cannot. The thought brings about an awe within me that I cannot penetrate. It enthralls me and freezes me in a moment of existential terror.

Clearly some sort of machine translation is going on here, right? I cannot imagine how anyone who translated this and is competent in English could return back this strange jumble of words even if they didn’t know French very well. I could imagine, possibly, a French speaker attempting a translation and coming up with this strange concoction.

And yet, despite this, the “translation” often has a strange sort of appeal to me. I don’t know if the strange supplanting of words that might have some relationship just strikes me as fanciful and fun or if, somehow, through the relationships of the words I originally used, their “equivalent” French words and the subsequent “equivalent” English words in being re-rendered back to English (of some kind), brings some sort of aesthetic similarity to it that it just meaningful enough to not be purely chaotic, and thus beautiful.

“I believe that truly deep translation entails symmetry–each side should look as if it might have come from the other.”

Le Ton beau de Marot, p. 128-129

Now, clearly I would like to see the French version that I assume this bastardization was derived from. Not speaking French more than a few phrases, this might not help much, but perhaps it might at least help me to track down the words that caused the strange transformation of my “move on” into “agitate” or my “even the pain of sadness,” becomes “unruffled the affliction of dejection.”

Obviously the presence of heteronyms (words that have the same spelling but mean different things or are pronounced differently) is part of the cause. Thus my “even” becomes “unruffled” rather than “in spite of” or some other comparable phrasing. Also, it seems that the relationships between English and French will cause synonyms to replace words, thus “dejection” and “affliction” are derived from “sadness” and “pain” through, respectively, tristesse and douleur. Or so it seems.

But read the entire “translation” and tell me if it does not have some strange appeal to you as well. While it is largely gibberish (the substitution of “mean” to “humble” makes the first paragraph, after the quote by Horace which links to something completely unrelated, downright silly), small gems of beauty poke through.

I particularly like this:

We agitate on because we promise, the continuing of being demands it to chance foul. predominantly And to the present time we agitate on.

and this:

…by a hair’s breadth so hanker as I am Вlite to anguish in unsuitable to hidey-hole it with this purport. predominantly I spread purport over being like a mellow leaf over some irreplaceable expand of artistry in a descend rage.

I do not know, due to my ignorance of such things, of any way to track down how this post I discovered was generated. I would appreciate any enlightenment on what has happened here. If anyone can shed light on this, I would appreciate it.

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1. 5 years | atheist, polyamorous skeptics - February 12, 2014

[…] of life was apparently translated to French, and then back to English, which prompted a post about translation (since, at the time, I was reading Douglas Hofstadter’s book Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise […]


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