Mechanical translation

Counting_machineAsking tongue in cheek if we really need perfect translation services, Momus wonders if it will eliminate the joy of mistranslation, the stiff, awkward and cloying language produced on occasion by services such as Babelfish and Google.   

When he suggests that he sees such errors as potential "poetry or jokes," I was reminded of flarf or Momus' own column on wooden tongue, both of which must be close cousins in the family of misunderstanding.

In the world of things perhaps their analog is Chindogu, which is a kind of whimsical design that burdens the idea of usefulness with a heavy dose of irony. Presented as a solution, the thing itself is problematic to use or causes embarrassment for the user.

It just goes to show that the best translations - that meaning itself - will often stray a bit from the received text.

The photo, "The Counting Machine," is courtesy of jamacdonald's photostream at Flickr.

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