Friday, August 14, 2009

Machine translation! No! Pukey feeling? Yes!

There are two things that are making me think of this ill-translated menu I had the chance to hold for a minute or two while I considered which version of a cheese sandwich I should order (melted, of course) in Puno, Peru, while I waited for the next bus out of dodge, that would take me to meet some very cool Californians and also to the doctor for what was a brewing, pulsing infection in the nailbed of my right ring finger (one of my favorites, for the record).

story here:

The first thing is that I've been translating my little brain out all day, and as I posted on twitter (what? you don't follow that? why ever not!, I'm @bearshapedspher due to username length constraints which I must say I feel are antibearshapedspherist), I love it more than is rational or can be explained. I love translating because there are words! And you can knit them into sentences or unravel them into dependent clauses and skip around and make them dance, and ultimately make them do whatever you want. It's a beautiful thing, really. Spanish to English, occasional dictionary or internet support, NEVER machine translation, which may or may not be what happened to our fair menu, as seen above.

The other thing that has me thinking of that menu is how I felt when I held it in my hands. I was just a couple of days post puke-in-a-2-liter-bottle and still a little green around the gills. And my first attempt at standing up for any period today has demonstrated to me what I already knew. Words may dance and swirl in my brain, and so swims my brain in my head, and I should just sit the heck back down.

But social duty and birthday-gift distribution call, and the words will still be here when I get back. I hope I can get them to all swim in the same direction at once. A school of words, if you will. My dream snorkel adventure. What's yours?


Bystander said...

Ah, trout gives sweater. One of my favourites. This would probably be sudado de trucha. A sudado is fish "sweated" in a pan with just tomato, ají and onions. Sudado = sweated = sweater! And they give it to you. How clever is that?
Did they have applepie de manzana for dessert?

Michelle said...

These sound like rallying cries. Imagine, people running down the street, fists raised, shouting "trout to the cheese!"

Catherine said...

love that menu!! and love those trout options!!my favourite was on a menu in Turkey many years ago where you could order "Woman Dimension Balls" and "Moslem Priest to Faint" definitely lost in translation!!

Eileen said...

@bystander, I love the sweatered trout. I mean, who knows if trout don't get cold?! I'm sure it's delicious, but I was recovering from a nasty stomach thing, and didn't think bus station trout was a good addition to the gastrointestinal situation, if you will.

@michelle, and think of the Tshirts we could make for the occasion. Trout to the cheese (is that reminding you of all hail the chief, it is me), indeed!

@Catherine, Dying to know what those items actually meant. I have an advantage with mine, since I speak Spanish and can back form and also probably saw the originals. Got any idea what yours mean? A guy I met today told me he saw papas fritas translated and popes frieds. I dream of seeing this sign and taking a picture of it!

Margaret said...

Ah! Delicious delirium Eileen! your words, your fever, your ailing stomach have all joined forces to put you out there just over the edge!
But ohh! you're giving me ideas...!!

Eileen said...

@margaret I'm only a little bit afraid to find out what kind of ideas these are. Does it have to do with keeping me on the edge of illness so we can all watch the crazy flow out of my fingertips? Don't worry, we'll make more!

Margaret said...

Ah! I hadn't thought of THAT! You mean like your fingers are not mere vehicles of transmission on the journey from the ideas in your head to the words on our screens? Like they have the power to exude stuff directly from them? cool! No wait... now maybe I'm the delirious one!
Hope you're feeling better by the way!!

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read this blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

Keep on posting such themes. I like to read articles like this. By the way add more pics :)