Translating The Eye

A thread on rec.arts.sf.written from early 1999 suggested running The Eye of Argon through the Babelfish translation system twice, to see what happened. Would it get better, or get worse?

Here's what Babelfish does to the first three paragraphs with French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish as the intermediate languages. Personally, I think it gets 'better', by adding an extra layer of awfulness of automatic translation. (Some of the apparent impressive translation of obscure words, like 'stygian', can be explained by the fact they never got into the intermediate language in the first place.) Some results are just amazing: "favourite workstations of hell", indeed.

The flavour of the intermediate language comes through in places, even discounting the untranslated words. When I originally wrote this page [Feb 1999], I said that I'd love to see the result of English / Russian / English, or, probably better still, English / Japanese / English. My wish was granted by Peter Murphy, who emailed me [July 2000] a Russian intermediate, courtesy of PROMT's online translator, and a Japanese intermediate, courtesy of LEC's online demo. The Japanese one certainly has a different flavour.

Then Alexander Cherry emailed me [June 2003] to say "Babelfish now has a nifty feature that can make Eye of Argon even stranger. You can now do English -> German -> French -> English (or the reverse), thus having TWO intermediate languages instead of just one." So I've added the French/German and German/French double translations, too.

The story continues! Laura M emailed me [October 2004] the following:

Because your website on this subject made me laugh so much, I have taken it upon myself to do an extension of the English-other language-English translation of the first several paragraphs of Jim Theis' The Eye of Argon. I covered Swedish, Welsh, Latin, Croatian, Greek, Danish, and Hungarian. They're mostly pretty much standardly hilarious except for the Hungarian, the only one I recommend paying any attention to. It is very interesting in that 'Grignr' is apparently an English name recognizable in Hungarian, because it was translated. Danish and Welsh also added some interesting word choices. I used the following tool:


English / French / English


by Jim Theis

The trail beaten per time rolled up ahead in the climes stretched by dust of the baren the ground which dominates of most of the empire of Norgolian. The copies of shoe carried by age choked by sands of sifting of the times polished slightly against the crust splashed by dust with the ground. The tireless sun moulded its rays of drying of incandescense of time system, with semi-term of its daily revolution. The small rodents scampered approximately, occupying in the daily achievements their dull lives. Dust pulverized more than three supports of rising in clouds of blind man, whereas they ream the cargoes burdonsome of their overseers of fight.

"prepare to kiss your creators in the retirements stygian of the hell, barbarian", haleté the first soldier.

"only after you embraced the momentary stead death, the wretch!" turned over Grignr.

English / German / English


by Jim Theis

The weather struck track distort in front into the dust strongly stressed climes of cash country, which controls the large dividing of the realm Norgolian. Old ones carried hoof printing suffocated crust of mass by filter sand of the time blunt brilliantly against the dust splattered. The untiring sun threw its roasting jets of incandescense of the expenses, half way by its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered approximately and filled themselves in the daily completions of their dismal life lasting. Dust sprayed over three elevation installing in blindly making clouds, during it the burdonsome charges of their Kaempfenoverseers bores

"prepares you before itself, your creators in stygian the favourite workstations of hell, the barbarian to cover", gekeucht the first soldier

"only after you the volatile stead death kissed, wretch!", returned Grignr.

English / German / French / English


by Jim Theis

Time the striking trace which is ahead strongly wounded in those dust climes required, country cash which controls most of Norgolian of kingdom. Age Hufdrucke carried which was choked by those the sand of filtering time, shone blunted against dust splattered the crust of the mass. The untiring sun threw its rays roasting incandescense expenses, half manner by its daily rotation. Small animals of corroding scampered approximately and occupied themselves in daily completions of their dismal of the lives. Dust sprinkled on three to chamfer in the clouds making blindly, while they perforate the loadings burdonsome their with fights overseers.

"you prepare before him, your creators in stygian the places of favourite hell to cover it the bar of bar", keuchte the first soldier.

"only after you embraced volatile the stead the death, wretch!" Turned over Grignr.

English / French / German / English


by Jim Theis

The struck the trace by time, which was rolled up forward into that climes, which were stretched by dust of the cash, the earth, which controls large parts of the Imperiums of Norgolian. The shoe copies, which were suffocated by the filter and of the time, carried after age, to have weakly against the crust brilliantly, which was squirted by dust of the earth. The incessant sun formed its draining skates of incandescense from overhead costs at center term of their daily revolution. The small rodents scampered approximately, which are occupied in the daily implementations of their gloomy lives. The dust sputtered more than three frameworks of the rise in blind clouds, while they drill out the charges burdonsome of it overseers the fight.

"you prepare, in order to embrace your creators in the pensions stygian hell, barbarian", haleté the first soldiers.

"only, after you embraced stead the passenger of death, wretch!" Grignr turned.

English / Italian / English


from Jim Theis

The battered trace time fer ahead in the climes tormented powder of baren the earth that dominates the great deliveries of the empire of Norgolian. The press of the hoof capacities age have suffocated from sands of setacciamento of acute time polished with against the crust splattered earth powder. The untiring sun has launch the relative beams of essiccamento of incandescense from general expenses, average way with the relative daily turn. The roditori small scampered approximately, occupandosi in the daily realizations of their screw dismal. The powder has sprayed beyond three supports of raising in blinding clouds, while they ream cargos burdonsome of them overseers of fight

"to prepararsi in order to embrace your creators in the lairs stygian of the hell, barbarian", gasped the first soldier

"only after that you have kissed the stead momentary of the dead women, wretch!" given back Grignr.

English / Portuguese / English


for Jim Theis

The beaten escape time wounded ahead in climes submeteridos dust of baren the land that dominates parcels great of the empire of Norgolian. The consumed copies age of hoof smothered for sands sifting of the dull time shone of meeting to the crust splattered dust of the land. The sun tireless molded its rays parching of the incandescense of the overheads, half way with its daily rollback. The small rodents scampered approximately, occupying in the daily accomplishments of its lives dismal. The dust sprayed on three assemblies heaving in clouds blinding, when to pierce loads burdonsome of its overseers if to strengthen.

"it prepares for embrace its creators in haunts stygian of the hell, barbarian", gasped the first soldier.

"only later that you fleeting of the death kissed stead, wretch!" returned Grignr.

English / Spanish / English


by Jim Theis

The dangerous sign time hurts next in climes tormented dust of baren the track that dominates the big portions of the empire of Norgolian. The worn away printings age of enlistment choked by sands sifting of the opaque time shone against the sprinkled crust Earth dust. The untiring sun threw its rays of the drying of the incandescense of the indirect expenses, average way with its daily revolution. The small rodents scampered around, taking care in the daily accomplishments of its sad lives. The dust sprinkled concludo three assemblies of the cloud rise that blinded, whereas overseers of the fight bores the positions burdonsome of his

"preprese to embrace to their creator in the refuges stygian of hell, Barbarian", jadeado the first soldier

"only after you have kissed stead ephemeral of the death, wretch!" returned Grignr.

English / Russian / English


Dzhimom Teisom

Weather, pobitaja the wound of a trace forward in a dust tormented the countries of the ground baren which dominates over the most parts of Norgolian empire. The age the worn out printed editions of the hoof strangled by sand of sifting of time shined stupidly(bluntly) against a dust sprinkled korka the grounds. The indefatigable sun half of way through his(its) daily revolution throws his(its) beams of a burning out of heat from top. Small rodents ran about, borrowing(occupying) them is direct in daily vypolnenijah (achievements) of their gloomy lifes. Sprayed Dust more than three rising fastenings in blinding clouds while they transferred burdonsom cargoes of their struggling supervisors.

"Prepare to cover your founders in stigian, frequently visits(attends) a hell, the barbarian", the first soldier choked.

"Only after you have kissed the fleeting ground area of death, the villain! " Has returned Grignr.

English / Japanese / English

(Question marks are where the retranslated English contained Japanese characters)

The eye of ????

By the gym Theis

The traces that it overcame it due to the weather rolled up in front in the dust troubled the climate of baren land to monopolize the big part of the Norgolian empire. The age that it was oppressed by time to put it on the sieve faced the crust where it could begin to eliminate it by the dust of the earth, and ??? print worn out lighted up to dully. It passed, and ?? of that ? was thrown from indirect ? from incandescense as much as half of the methods as for the sun where fatigue wasn't known ? that everyday revolution ?. It devoted itself to the everyday completion of the almost gloomy life of (he, they), and little ?? tooth kind hurried. The other side (he, they) who poured spray on the mountain where dust was crowded by 3 in disappearing ? the group's ? carried the burdonsome freight of the manager of (he, they) who fights hard.

It said with the first soldier suffering from "Be the place where shade ??? of the barbarous hell goes well, and do the preparation of holding your creator."

"The person who is pitiful only after you only kiss the instant substitute of the death!" Grignr responded.

English / Swedish / English

The weather beaten trail wound ahead into dam racket climate if bare land which dominate grand part of Norgolian empire. Ages wore hoof printer suffocate wide the sift sand of term light dull anti the dam splattered crusade of soil The tireless suns throw its parching ray of incandescense from overhead , half ways through its daily revolution. Petty rode jump about , occupies themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal liver. Dam spray over three heavies mount in blind clouds , while they bore the burdonsome cargo of their struggle foreman. " prepare to embrace your creator in the naughty haunt of hell , barbarian ", pant the first soldier. " only after you had kissed the fleeting place of death , wretch " returned Grignr.

English / Welsh / English

The next one has a fixation on gastronomical issues:

' group weather beaten I drag I wound before into ' group dust tortured climes with ' group we caused land I go dominates ' heartburn large parts with ' group Norgolian empire. I age spent cairn prints smoked to ' group sifting ed with I time shone ' heartburn boom receive ' group dust splattered crust with earth. ' group tireless I shine cast ' I parching rays with incandescense with overhead , heifer way through ' I ' heartburn daily revolution. Slender part rodents scampered about , possessing themselves in ' group ' heartburn daily accomplishments with ' heartburn they ' heartburn fierce lives. Dust sprayed signs ' heartburn three waving mounts in blinding clouds , pluck they bear ' group burdonsome cargoes with ' heartburn they wriggling supervisors. " I prepare to I embrace ' dogs creators in ' group stygian resorts with the underworld , wild man ", gasped ' group ' heartburn point soldier. " Except after you kissed ' group ' heartburn evanescent stead with death wretch! " returned Grignr.

English / Latin / English

storm flogged to follow wound ahead upon dust to turn region of to be laid open earth and to be lord and master of large portions of Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof chief noble smothered very to separate sands of time shone leaden on the way dust splattered crust of earth. tireless sun to throw his rushing rays of incandescense out of to apply oneself , half road very his daily revolution. Diminutive rodents scampered over, upon , to attack first themselves upon daily deed of its to authorize to spend time. Dust sprayed over, upon three heavily to ascend upon blind clouds , until they tedium burdonsome cargoes of its to lean against guardian. " to draw up comprehension your planter upon stygian to sit near of hell , barbarian ", sobbing the first man soldier. " only accordingly you fui kiss winged firm of violent death , sad! " to go back Grignr.

English / Croatian / English

weather beaten trail wound leading into a powder racket climes of the day divestment lea which Government large ration of the day Norgolian legality. Age worn hoof letter-press smother past sifting sands with time shone wearisome versus powder splattered crust with World. tireless sun mould features parch rays with light from overhead , half way via features daily wheel. Small rodent scamper about , occupying themselves in daily accomplishments with their accident livestock. Powder sprayey at an three weight Setup in blinding be getting frown , while those bušenje burdonsome brodski load with their struggling controller. " to prepare this lie around yours maker in stygian lie around with hell , savage ", wheeze first soldier. " sole afterwards these have kiss fleet physical location with cessation of life , wretch! " returned Grignr.

English / Greek / English

The weather beaten tugboat wound in the front into the powder racked climate of the nude land which dominate large ration of the Norgolian empire. age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sandstone of the time Shone dully adversely the powder splattered squash of the land. The tireless Sun cast its parching rays of the incandescense since transparency , half way through its daily uprising. small rodents scampered for , to occupy themselves in the daily accomplishments of the their to take apart lives. powder spray up three heaven to mount means blind cloud , space this bore the burdonsome cargoes of the their to struggle overseas. " prepare cuddle yours create in the stygian haunts of the hell , barbarous gasped the first soldier. " sole after You have kissed the fleet stead of the death wretch! " return Grignr.

English / Danish / English

The weather zapped trail wound ahead to the dust number climate to the bar the land which domination extensive parties to the Norgolian empirical. Age trite hoof prints kill from the sifting true going shone dull to the dust splattered campaign to earth. The tireless sun throw off its parching brightens to incandescense from regular outlays , half moderation through its every day revolution. Insignificant root scamper round , incorporating themselves to the every day outputs to their sad liver. Dust sprayer quit three heavy stick to blind clouds , at the same time as they bear the burdonsome cargo to their struggle overseas. " organize to indemnify yours the creator to the stygian be at work to hell , barbarian ", gasp the ultimate soldier. " only take it or leave it that precede receive kissed the fleet certainly to death , wretched! " returned Grignr.

English / Hungarian / English

THE weather subjected vestige wound onwards into the air dust racked climes ból naked land which dominates mickle divide ból Norgolian realm. Age worn horns prints swamp nél sifting sands ból time twinkled vacuously against the bus dust splattered shell ból soil. THE tireless day drum the baking rays ból incandescence ból upper , it's afraid way in-and-out the daily revolution. Small rodents scampered some , take themselves ban daily accomplishments ból uk darksome poignancy. Dust sprinkled upper three ascent mounts ban glaring clouds , while they are bore the burdonsome carriages ból uk struggling supervisors. " prepare yield hug the creators ban stygian haunts ból devildom , barbarous ", gasper the first soldier. " sole after you have kissed the fleeting place ból death , bally! " revert Grig.