Archive for the ‘words’ Category

B.S. Word of the Day

March 11, 2011


There’s no such thing. By calling something unspeakable, you just spoke of it.


All Your Base Are Belong to Chivas

September 4, 2010

The Google Translate Logo.Google Translate can be surprisingly amusing. Guffaw inducing, even. Don’t get me wrong; being a typical product of the United States’ educational system, I’m very grateful for its existence since English is the only language I can read in any manner vaguely resembling competently. If you don’t have the luxury of grabbing someone at your leisure who can speak a language you don’t understand and demanding that they tell you the meaning of what you’re attempting to read, a computerized translation program is really the only way you can get the basic gist of some text written in that language.

So it was that I was looking at the web site of the Mexican Premier Division’s C.D. Guadalajara the other day ahead of the team’s game here against the Philadelphia Union. The site is, naturally, in Spanish, so I had to call on Google Translate to come to the rescue. Hilarity ensued.

For starters, the club’s site had a page with helpful info for its fans about Philadelphia. While I’m sure its contents are perfectly coherent in its original language, here’s an example of what The Google’s high-tech algorithms do to it:

It is the largest historical, cultural and artistic in the United States, and in the same way an important industrial port on the Delaware River, extending to the Atlantic Ocean.

Philly extends to the Atlantic Ocean? AWESOME! I always suspected that in some dank pit in a long-forgotten government archive building exists some highly official 18th century document explicitly spelling out how New Jersey has no right to exist. What do the folks in Chivas Guadalajara’s front office know that we’ve all forgotten here? Ed Rendell needs to get on the horn with them pronto so that we can seize all of Atlantic City’s gambling revenue for ourselves!

The C.D. Guadalajara logo.

The Goats, Keepers of the Knowledge of How to Rid the World of New Jersey.

The Philadelphia primer page has nothing on Google’s mangling of the match report, though:

Because although it seems difficult to understand, the Herd did most exhibited the collective game of ball control and arrivals at goal, but it was the Union that after a defensive inattention rojiblancos, used to mark which ultimately would be defined as a victory for the MLS table.

From the start of the match, Guadalajara showed a greater collective game, which immediately paid off in opportunities in the area of the Americans, since only two minutes of the meeting, Omar Bravo hit a ball in the crescent, which tried to resolve by half scissors, however your shipment was just above the cabin of the Union.

What is this mysterious “shipment,” and when did sports teams start getting hunting cabins in Potter County? Would half of a pair of scissors be a letter opener, and did Omar Bravo use one to try to deflate the ball? How the heck is that legal? Google, please enlighten me, because right now, it seems difficult to understand.

And now, mostly just for my own amusement, here’s the first paragraph of this post after being run through Google Translate from English to Spanish and back several times over:

Google Translator can be surprisingly fun. To induce laughter. Do not get me wrong, being a typical product of the U.S. educational system, I am very grateful for their existence since English is the only language that can read in any kind of responsibility vaguely similar. If you do not have the luxury of having someone in your free time you can speak a language and demanding that they do not understand the meaning of what you say you’re trying to read a computer translation program is really the only way to ensure that basis of a text written in this language.

International understanding is truly just a click away.

Why Botanists Aren’t Writers

August 26, 2010

In common parlance, the difference between a “spore” and a “gamete” (both together called gonites) is that a spore will germinate and develop into a sporeling, while a gamete needs to combine with another gamete before developing further.

— From

I don’t believe that’s “common parlance” anywhere on this planet.

Weird Search Terms

November 8, 2009

One search engine query that directed someone to this blog two days ago was “cat eating.” I’m not sure whether the person in question was looking for cats eating things, or the eating of cats. Either way, it’s somewhat squirm-inducing.

A search term leading here yesterday was “infant hair removal.” I really don’t want to know.

“Snowball with batteries cowboys” was another term from the past week. I can’t even begin to picture what the searcher envisioned by that.

“Victorian insane asylums,” or some variation thereof, is a frequent denizen of the search terms that lead readers here. Apparently a lot of people out there are really into Victorian insane asylums.

Another person this week was looking for a “slogan for america.” How about this one: “America. . . Two continents for the price of one!”

“Funk do chupa cabra” was another recent search query directing here. This one gives me an idea: maybe somebody should invent a dance called the “Funky Chupacabra.” It would be like the funky chicken, only somehow involving buckets of blood. Now that I think about it, having just written “buckets of blood” here probably opens this site up to even weirder Internet searches in the future.

Today’s Dip in the Toddler Dictionary

October 18, 2009

muggle:  —noun— what our 25 month-old toddler calls our cat Molly.

No, he has not yet seen any of the Harry Potter movies, nor have any of the books been read to him yet.

The Death of Language

October 17, 2009

This BBC article published today got me thinking: what exactly is lost when a language dies out? Is the death of a rarely-spoken language always a completely bad thing?

They’re not merely academic questions for me; half of my family is Pennsylvania Dutch, and my grandfather can speak the language fluently. A century ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see bilingual street signs throughout central Pennsylvania in both English and Deitsch, the proper name of this region’s twisted offshoot of German (the word “Dutch” in Pennsylvania Dutch is a misnomer coined by English speakers who misheard the word “Deitsch,” which is derived from the German “Deutsch”). 200 years ago, such bilingual signs were even common throughout Philadelphia.

In the past, both languages could be heard spoken regularly in public places throughout eastern and central PA by people from all walks of life. Today, Deitch is generally only spoken in the home by members of the “Plain” religious sects, like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, as well as a dwindling handful of secular old-timers like my grandfather.

So what happened? For one thing, improvements in transportation and communication technology wore away at regional isolation. As more people became more exposed to a wider world in which people did not speak Deitsch, English increasingly became the dominant language because it was spoken throughout the country. World events had something to do with it as well — after World War I, the number of people speaking the language began to dwindle. Then, my grandfather’s generation was largely the last of the non-Plain people to grow up speaking the Pennsylvania Dutch language at home, as well as the last born before the Nazi takeover of Germany and World War II; those things occurring together are not coincidental. Ironically, my great-grandfather, also a fluent Deitsch speaker and a World War I veteran, was chosen to serve as part of the allied forces in the occupation of the Rhineland following the First World War specifically because he could sort-of understand and sort-of make himself understood by the local populace there.

My Dad’s family has lived in this part of Pennsylvania for about 300 years, and they clung to the Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch sprooch (language) for about 250 of those years. There’s a lesson in that for all the anti-immigrant/English-only hysterics out there: English was NEVER this country’s sole language, and speaking English is NOT what makes you a “real” American.

All the same, my father and I grew up speaking only English at home. I’ve often wondered if we’ve lost an additional perspective on the world for not having grown up bilingual, but I’ve also often wondered if I wouldn’t have had access to the opportunities I’ve been given in life if I’d grown up speaking something other than English at home. I also seriously doubt that my father would have eventually married the daughter of an immigrant from Manchester, England who lived in both countries growing up if he’d been born into an earlier, more insular, time period.

There are now attempts to revive the language, led by academics at places like Kutztown University, like what has been done elsewhere in the world with Irish Gaelic, Welsh, and Hebrew. Part of me hopes fervently this succeeds. After all, I chose to take German over Spanish in high school and continue studying it into college for the same reasons some professors and younger people are trying to spark a Deitsch renaissance today: it’s part of my background, and I would hate to see it die out.

On the other hand, another part of me wonders what the practical point of all this is. What purpose does speaking Deitsch fluently serve? German (or Deutsch) is a useful international business language, but Deitsch isn’t Deutsch. If you tried to speak it in a boardroom in Frankfurt, you’d be barely intelligible to everyone else in the room, and, worse yet, you’d probably sound like something several notches below that of hick.

Is spending a significant chunk of one’s education preventing cultural memory from dying out more important than spending that time learning other skills? Increasingly, more people in places like Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and now perhaps even here are saying yes. I’m not sure what the answer is.

Why Does Anybody Take This Guy Seriously?

May 29, 2009

While thinking about the tragically underused phrase “perfidious wretch” for my previous post, I remembered that Dick Cheney is back in the news again, this time for reasons not pertaining to war crimes. He was worrying about the federal deficit on TV yesterday:

I think the budgets [the Obama Administration] submitted are way out of whack. I think what it does not only to the short-term deficit but long-term debt situation is very objectionable.  . . .

I don’t hear anybody in the administration expressing concern over that massive growth in the national debt and what’s that going to mean long-term in terms of our currency, in terms of inflation.

I’m honestly inclined to agree with those statements, but you have to remember that they are coming from the same person who said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” while defending the Bush Administration’s aggressive tax-cutting (and therefore deficit-engorging) policies to an extremely skeptical Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. Incidentally, I recall Reagan’s deficits mattering quite a bit during the 1992 presidential election campaign.

It is, dare I say, a torturous intellectual path from his argument with O’Neill to yesterday’s interview.

Random Thought of the Day

May 29, 2009

It’s a shame that words like “perfidious wretch” aren’t used in ordinary conversation anymore.

A Baseball Grammar Lesson

March 26, 2009

This was a pet grammatical peeve of mine when I worked as a collegiate Sports Information Director, and I especially hate to hear the professionals say it wrong:

“RBI” is an abbreviation for “Run Batted In.”

The plural of “Run Batted In” is “Runs Batted In;” it is not “Run Batted Ins.” The latter is not only incorrect, it also sounds idiotic.

Therefore, the proper plural of “RBI” is “RBI,” not “RBIs.”

Somebody really needs to tell that to the broadcasters covering Washington Nationals games on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. I’m frankly surprised they get it wrong, especially since their local newspaper uses the correct form. At least it’s spring training; they still have time to get it right.

I am well aware that some dictionaries list both “RBI” and “RBIs” as acceptable plural forms, but those are the ones with editors who have caved in the face of a pervasive error.

Why do I watch Washington Nationals games on TV rather than my beloved Philadelphia Phillies? It is because Comcast is full of petulant wankers. Even though we live in hard-core Philadelphia sports country, because we have satellite TV we do not get Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. They do allow us to have Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, though, which covers D.C. and Baltimore sports, as well as MASN, which covers the same area. Never mind that we live much closer to Philadelphia than either of those other places.

Enough crotchety kvetching for now. . .

Random Weirdness Redux

February 18, 2009

Here is just a small sampling of the search engine queries that sent web surfers to this site yesterday:

  • stupid lancaster county tourist
  • how to satire hair removal
  • snorting desitin
  • inspirational catholic quotes
  • pa dutch bouva
  • liverpool are scum
  • funny chemistry

I want to know what the person who searched for “snorting desitin” was on at the time. Whatever it was, it mustn’t have been enough, because they were clearly craving the exquisite high that only Desitin huffing can deliver. All the cool kids are doing it!

I also love the fact that my site pops up on search engines if you enter “Liverpool are scum.” The fact that it’s also listed under “inspirational catholic quotes” is a tad unsettling, though.

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