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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The translation game, now with approved borogroves

by John MacBeath Watkins

In a somewhat obscure Philip K. Dick book, The Galactic Pot Healer, the futility of the hero's life is revealed by a hobby he shares with similarly lonely and directionless souls, sending well-known phrases through a series of translations, then challenging the other players to guess the original text.

Robert Frost defined poetry as "that which is lost in translation," so I decided to try it with a well-known poem. I don't think you'll have too much trouble guessing the original text, but this is how it looked after being translated into Hindi, Arabic, Maltese and back to English, with possibly some other languages I've forgotten.

Say what!?

(not as written by) Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig and slithy Tove.
       WABE ring and Gimble.
All approved borogoves.
       Mome raths asshole.


"Beware the Jabberwock my son!
       Jose, claws that catch the dust!
Jubjub Birds stay away.
       Frumious Bandersnatch! ".

Grab Vorpal sword in his hand.
       To his enemies Manxome -.
Then placed Tumtum tree.
       It was intended for a period of time.

Uffish and thinks he is.
       Jyoti Eye with Jabberwock.
Whiffling Tulgey wood.
       burbled as it is!

One, two! One, two! By scoring.
       Light vorpal blade dazed!
Leave dead, and with its president.
       Went galumphing.

"Jabberwock?
       Lady, Beamish my boy!
S frabjous today! Callooh Callay! ".
       He delighted chortled.


`Twas brillig and slithy Tove.
       What is the area and Wabe Gimble;
All approved borogoves.
       Mome raths asshole.


Apparently, Frost was right.

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