When disingenuous websites become funny… and a bit of Italian history.


Disclaimer: I do my best to keep this blog family-friendly, but this post delves into a couple of things that might be not suitable for young kids.

There are websites out there that will do anything for clicks. When you find one of these out there, the content is generally worth less than the electrons used to display them.

(Unless, of course, your electricity provider is Central Maine Power, and then you might be talking about some real money, but that’s a different conversation.)

Every now and then, though, that drive for clicks and eyeballs on ads results in a bit of humor. And in this case the journey was interesting as well. So bear with me.

At the Carnevale di Viareggio in Tuscany, one of the 1st-Class floats featured 45 as the God Emperor from Warhammer 40K. My first clue to this gem showed up at reddit:

If you want the entire video this screen cap came from, you can view it here.

And I wanted to post this elsewhere, with a simple heading, because I was so delighted with this exquisite rendering of The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office:

Having lived in Naples for a good amount of time, one sees things like this frequently – the “W” is short for “viva,” or “long live” or “hooray for” or some similar sentiment. There is a corresponding symbol for “Down with,” which looks like this:

Down with Galateo

But as I was working to find suitable examples, I began to wonder about the origin of these two symbols, and it turns out they arose during the time of Giuseppe Verdi. And if you’ve ever lived in Italy, you know that everything is political. From Wikipedia:

The growth of the “identification of Verdi’s music with Italian nationalist politics” perhaps began in the 1840s… It was not until 1859 in Naples, and only then spreading throughout Italy, that the slogan “Viva Verdi” was used as an acronym for Viva Vittorio Emanuele RDItalia (Viva Victor Emmanuel King of Italy)… After Italy was unified in 1861, many of Verdi’s early operas were increasingly re-interpreted as Risorgimento works with hidden Revolutionary messages that perhaps had not been originally intended by either the composer or his librettists.

So that “double V” for “Viva Verdi” came to symbolize “Viva” or “Up with,” and by analogy, an inverted VV, or M, became “Down with.”

Now that we know that, I can take you on the detour. It took me a while to get to that explanation, but while I was looking, I stumbled across this image:

W la Figa

I had never encountered this, but I had a sneaking suspicion I knew more or less what it meant. And I was right. You can see WLF all over photos and uniforms and stickers and hats relating to race car driver Valentino Rossi, and it stands for “Long Live Pussy.” Hey, I didn’t write it. La Figa, by the way, derives from a very ancient sign, “The fig,” which was common in Rome and other places:

Manu Fica –
It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see this as representing female body parts.

So while I was researching that, I got a hit on Google from a page called “Names.org” that purports to provide origins for names. And while it may do that to a certain extent for legitimate names, such as my own, it does it mostly by randomly scraping content from the Internet, resulting in an unreliable hodgepodge of unedited information. For your gratuitous enjoyment, the meaning of the name “Wlafiga:”

I highly doubt they’ll publish the origins and meaning that I suggested.

Now, just to make absolutely certain that in some language somewhere “Wlafiga” was not a real name, I asked Names.org for the origin of “Bjørkmœð,” a nonsense string of phonemes that I created out of whole cloth. Here’s what I got:

Robotically-generated nonsense.

So if you want a laugh, go over to Names.org and search out your own, or make something up and see what you get. But the takeaway here is, never rely on a single website to provide you with accurate information – dig deep, and then dig deeper.

W the Internet!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Malaprops and Malaphors

From Wikipedia:

malapropism (also called a malaprop or Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance. An example is the statement by baseball player Yogi Berra, “Texas has a lot of electrical votes”, rather than “electoral votes”… Humorous malapropisms are the type that attract the most attention and commentary, but bland malapropisms are common in speech and writing.

The expression was named after the character “Mrs. Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, “The Rivals.” Via linguistic back-formation,
the blending of idioms or clichés is called a malaphor.

These showed up somewhere on Facebook today – I think it was a screen cap of a twitter feed followed by a slug of suggestions from commenters. I found them delightful, and thought I would digest them for my readers here.

You can take one man’s trash to another man’s treasure but you can’t make it drink.
We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.
It’s not rocket surgery.
Not the sharpest egg in the attic.
… until the cows freeze over.
… until the last banshee is hung.
You’ve opened this can of worms, now lie in it.
America was a tinder box with a hair trigger just waiting for the other foot to drop
It’s like icing on the gravy.
“They’re too many cooks in the broth”.
Even a blind squirrel is right twice a day.
Not the sharpest knife in the crayon box
An ounce of safe is worth a pound of sorry.
We’ll drive off that bridge when we get to it.
We’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.
You’re making me want to drink like a fish out of water
“We’ll burn that bridge when we jump off it”
I am bound and determined not to use any more cliches.
We’ll cross that bridge when it hatches.
That’s where the butter meets the bridge!
Does the Pope 🤬 in the woods?
I don’t need a compass to tell me which way the wind shines.” (Mr. Furious, from the movie Mystery Men.)
Never look a gift horse in the peas and carrots
It’s 6 one way, a dozen another.
Well, that gets the monkey off my face.
Even a blind pig can find the sharpest whip in the drawer twice a day.
Sticks and stones will make hell freeze over.
…like stink on rice
A bird in the hand has no bite.

And my all-time favorite, from Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket: You’ve buttered your bread… now sleep in it!

The Old Wolf has spoken

Then there were those language cartoons.

Just a while ago I gave you some of the comic strips that made me laugh absurdly hard over the course of my life. The ones I present here were not always that kind, but they are ones that pleased my inner linguist. You don’t spend a lifetime playing with languages and not appreciate things like this.

(Some of the images enlarge when you click on them, others don’t.)

The danger of encountering a translator in the wild.
A rare skill.

On that note, I mentioned this joke earlier in a post about macaronics:


A professor of Latin at Yale, (sounds like a limerick in the offing, doesn’t it?) having ordered a meal at a fine New Haven restaurant, decided that he would like some wine with his dinner. So he summoned the wine steward and asked for a bottle of hock. Feeling clever, he added, “hic, haec, hoc.”

“Very good, sir,” replied the wine steward, and left.

Twenty minutes later, no wine. The learned man summoned the steward again, and asked, “Didn’t I order a bottle of hock?”

“You did indeed, sir,” replied the steward, “but then you declined it.”

Any part of speech can be verbed, up to and including entire paragraphs. “I don’t wanna go to bed!” “Oh yeah? I’ll ‘I don’t wanna go to bed’ you if you don’t get up those stairs!”

I, too, am very hung up on languages. And I have studied Hebrew, and Korean, and Serbian. They are all still “in progress.”

Fortunately, I never had to take “Bonehead English.” One of my favorite English classes was taught by Joe Boyle at Cheshire Academy. Hi, Joe! 😁
This one did double duty – it tickled my language bone and also made me laugh too hard. Sorry.
There’s nothing like a good language pun. Sandra Boynton is a mistress of the genre. This one is very obscure – you have to read “Aisle B loving ewe four heifers”
Johnny Hart was an inveterate punster.
This isn’t really a pun. It isn’t really a Mondegreen. I don’t even know what to call it, but it’s funny.
The Grammar Police are never far away.
If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.

Ferd’nand had a similar problem. “My hovercraft is full of eels.” In passing, this is one of a very few strips where Ferd’nand actually says anything at all.
Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints become fluent in the language of their assigned countries over the course of time, but getting there can be a challenge.
This one reminds me of “The Polar Express,” for some odd reason.
The Chinese reads ” Wǒ ài nǐ. ” (I love you).
This Mafalda is one of my favorite translation-related cartoons.
It all started somewhere.
Another classic by Johnny Hart. He’s right, you know.
I’ll see your nuclear physics and raise you my prescriptive grammar.
Thanks to “Y Gwyll,” I have no problem pronouncing “Aberystwyth” and a host of other Welsh place names. Wonderful show, by the way, I’m sorry it wrapped up.
Whatever you do, don’t think about a purple aardvark skydiver.
Alien languages can be a hassle. How would you order a pizza with ham and pineapple if all you could say was things like “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra?”

Many others, there are in the world – but this will have to suffice for now.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Pity the poor translator

One doesn’t work in the translation industry for decades without having some strong feelings about seeing bad translations.

Once when I was in an oriental market, I picked up a packet of dried squid for snacking on.

I already know what you’re thinking. Shut up. 

I think it’s a product of Taiwan, but I’m not sure, because it looks like it’s destined for both the US and Japan.

On the package, it says (spelling errors are transcribed as found):

“This product is under strict ouality control with perfect packing and quality when leaving the factory. Please keep away from damp, high temp or sun expose. If found any defectives when purchasing please retrn the product by airmail to our Administration section and inform the purchase for our improvement we shall give you a satisfactory reply. Thanks for your Patronage and welcome your comments.”

If “ouality” is such a priority, why don’t such asian exporters ever run their documentation or packaging under the eyes of a native English speaker? I could think of a number of reasons:

  1. They’re cheap
  2. Their own estimation of their English ability exceeds actuality
  3. They know the product will sell just as well even with lousy translations
  4. They don’t give a rat’s ass
  5. All of the above

Me, I’d be embarrassed to sell a product in a foreign market with errors like this – but it’s a problem of long, long standing. Translation is often given short shrift in business plans. Too many managers think, “Oh, my secretary Miss Yin speaks English, she can do the translation and I’ll save money.” With the concept of “face” so prominent in Asian cultures, it surprises me that they don’t understand this sort of cost-cutting makes their enterprise look bad. On the other hand, perhaps the average American consumer doesn’t care either.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere when writing about translation, but I wish I had kept a copy of an ad that appeared on our bulletin board in the early 80’s when I was working for a now-defunct translation software firm. It showed a manager reaming out some poor drone, and the caption was “Because you let your brother-in-law do the translation, our ad says that our new camera exposes itself automatically!

People in the translation industry are certainly aware of the problem, and resolving it would certainly create a lot of work for a lot of people… but would also deduct from the bottom line of the manufacturers, and that has always seemed to be the driving factor.

Automation has affected a lot of industries for good and for ill. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, many trades have been relatively untouched except for better tools and a proliferation of codes and regulations. But thanks to CAT tools* and the Internet, the translation industry has been radically transformed from a field where educated professionals could seek out high-quality clients and agencies vied to find high-quality translators into an absolute circus where millions of people in third-world countries offer abysmal services for 3¢ per word and agencies expect the lifelong journeymen and journeywomen to meet these kinds of prices (with concomitant reductions for repeated text, of course.)

The professional translators who have been willing to buy the tools and deal with the agencies to stay in their field have my undying respect; I got out of the circus years ago as a way to make a living.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


*Computer-Assisted Translation tools. This is the only CAT tool I still have:

20161209 Sensei Helping.jpg

And, frankly, he’s not much help in the work arena, but he does a world of good for my heart.

Just change one letter…

Following were the winners of a New  York magazine contest in which contestants were to take a well‑known  expression in a foreign language, change a single letter, and provide a  definition for the new expression.

HARLEZ‑VOUS  FRANCAIS
Can you drive a French motorcycle?

EX POST FUCTO
Lost in the mail.

IDIOS AMIGOS
We’re wild and crazy  guys!

VENI, VIPI, VICI
I came,  I’m a very important person, I conquered.

COGITO  EGGO SUM
I think; therefore I waffle.

RIGOR MORRIS
The cat is dead.

RESPONDEZ S’IL VOUS PLAID
Honk if  you’re Scottish.

QUE SERA SERF
Life is feudal.

LE ROI EST MORT. JIVE LE  ROI
The king is dead. No kidding.

POSH MORTEM
Death styles of the rich  and famous.

PRO BOZO PUBLICO
Support your local clown (or politician, your call)

MONAGE A TROIS
I am three years old.

FELIX NAVIDAD
Our cat has a  boat.

HASTE CUISINE
Fast French  food.

VENI, VIDI, VICE
I came,  I saw, I partied.

QUIP PRO QUOA
Fast retort.

ALOHA OY
Love;  greetings; farewell; from such a pain you would never know.

MAZEL TON
Tons of luck

VISA LA FRANCE
Don’t leave your chateau  without it.

AMICUS PURIAE
Platonic friend.

L’ETAT, C’EST  MOO
I’m bossy around here.

 

ZITGEIST
The  clearasil doesn’t quite cover it up.

E PLURIBUS  ANUM
Out of any group, there’s always one asshole.

NOMO ARIGATO
No thanks to you.

VIVE LE DUFFERENCE
Long live  golfing.

Note: The next two violate the “one letter” rule, but they’re here anyway.

COGITO, ERGO SPUD
I think, therefore I Yam.

VENI, VIDI, VELCRO
I came, I saw, I  stuck around.

The Deseret Alphabet remembered

I have written about the Deseret Alphabet before, in a somewhat unusual context – today I came across a nostalgic article at the Deseret News commemorating this bit of linguistic whimsy. It appears to have begun development as early as 1847, which would make it closer to 170 years old.

lark is up

The poem above, from the Deseret Second Book (page 31), reads as follows:

The lark is up to meet the sun,
The bee is on the wing;
The ant its labor has begun,
The woods with music ring.

And shall I sleep while beams of morn
Their light and glory shed?
For thinking beings were not born
To waste their time in bed.

Clearly the authors of these primers were not above a bit of plagiarism; the first stanza of this poem is by William Holmes McGuffey (1800–73)

The original second stanza reads,

Shall birds, and bees, and ants, be wise,
While I my moments waste?
O let me with the morning rise,
And to my duty haste.

McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, newly rev., lesson 81, p. 54 (1849).

The transliteration of the Deseret Alphabet:

Deseret Alphabet

In the course of a study of Deseret as part of my MA in linguistics, I discovered that it had an added and unplanned benefit; reading the journals of Brigham Young, some of which had been transcribed into Deseret Alphabet during the days of enthusiasm for the project, I discovered that these manuscripts served as a window into the dialect and pronunciation of the scribes of the day. Since people transcribed the English they way they pronounced it, one could not only determine that various volumes were transcribed by different people, but also have a fair idea of what they sounded like when they spoke.

𐐜 𐐄𐐢𐐔 𐐚𐐃𐐢𐐙 𐐐𐐈𐐞 𐐝𐐑𐐄𐐗𐐤.

An Essay for Mrs. Malaprop

“A malapropism (also called a malaprop or Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance… The word “malapropism” (and its earlier variant “malaprop”) comes from a character named “Mrs. Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals.” (Wikipedia)

Some examples of malapropisms are:

  • “illiterate him quite from your memory” (instead of “obliterate”)
  • “she’s as headstrong as an allegory” (instead of alligator).

A friend of mine recently posted this gem on Facebook; I had seen it before, but yesterday it rang a bell and I thought I’d just get it out here with its corrected version for future reference.

TRIGGER WARNING: If bad English offends you, look away now!

16683908_1280992588632773_450508375705471017_n.jpg

Ow! Ow! Ow!

In text format, the monstrosity reads:

Acyrologia is the incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds similar but has a diffident meaning – possibly fueled by a deep-seeded desire to sound more educated, witch results in an attempt to pawn off an incorrect word in place of a correct one. In academia, such flaunting of common social morays is seen as almost sorted and might result in the offender becoming a piranha, in the Monday world, after all is set and done, such a miner era will often leave normal people unphased. This is just as well sense people of that elk are unlikely to tow the line irregardless of any attempt to better educate them. A small percentage, however, suffer from severe acryrologiaphobia, and it is their upmost desire to see English used properly. Exposure may cause them symptoms that may resemble post-dramatic stress disorder and, eventually, descend into whole-scale outrage as they go star-craving mad. Eventually, they will succumb to the stings and arrows of such barrage, and suffer a complete metal breakdown , leaving them curled up in a feeble position.

The only way to stop the pain is to read the paragraph in its proper form:

Acyrologia is the incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds similar but has a different meaning – possibly fueled by a deep-seated desire to sound more educated, which results in an attempt to pawn off an incorrect word in place of a correct one. In academia, such flaunting of common social mores is seen as almost sordid and might result in the offender becoming a pariah; in the mundane world, after all is said and done, such a minor error will often leave normal people unfazed. This is just as well since people of that ilk are unlikely to toe the line, regardless of any attempt to better educate them. A small percentage, however, suffer from severe acryrologiaphobia, and it is their utmost desire to see English used properly. Exposure may cause them symptoms that may resemble post-traumatic stress disorder and, eventually, descend into full-scale outrage as they go stark-raving mad. Eventually, they will succumb to the slings and arrows of such barrage, and suffer a complete mental breakdown , leaving them curled up in a fetal position.

I’ve written before about “Word Crimes” – one of Weird Al’s best efforts ever, and that’s saying something because just about everything he does is delightful.

The Wold Floof has Broken.