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Stolen pants, exploding samovars, and other things you should not eat. - The Mad Schemes of Dr. Tectonic — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Beemer

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Stolen pants, exploding samovars, and other things you should not eat. [Mar. 2nd, 2005|12:27 am]
Beemer
I have a stupid hobby. I collect useless sentences in foreign languages.

I mention it because today I got a new addition to my collection.

It started out with the Latin class I took my freshman year. Latin is taught to translate, not to speak, so in a year of college latin, you get almost all of the grammar and basically no useful vocabulary. So the only things you learn how to say are memorable bits of famous latin texts, like "all of Gaul is divided into three parts", or "the die is cast". In particular, the only full sentence I can remember is:

"Hercules misit sagittas cum Hydrae, sed frustra."
Hercules shot his arrows at the hydra, But In Vain. (Hercules does lots of things "sed frustra".)

Which is, frankly, a completely useless thing to be able to say.

And then, when I was at MIT, arcticturtle, who was president of the MIT Esperanto club, taught me to say "My hovercraft is full of eels" in Esperanto.

Again, completely useless.

So I decided to make a full-fledged hobby out of it. I figure if I'm ever stuck in a foreign country and can't speak the language, I'll just repeat my sentence over and over, very insistently, and eventually the locals will find someone who speaks English to ask me, "WHAT is it that you are trying to say, because what you're saying makes no sense at all!"

Here's what I've got so far:

Latin: "Hercules misit sagittas cum hydrae, sed frustra."
Hercules shot his arrows at the hydra, but in vain™.

Esperanto: "Mia kusenveturilo estas plena de angiloj."
My hovercraft is full of eels.

German: "Deine Mutti mangelt die Tankstelle."
Your mother irons the gas station.
(It's actually more like "yo mama" than "your mother", though.)

French: "Ne mangez pas le sous-sol."
Do not eat the basement.

Spanish: "Yo como la espejo; esta peligroso, pero sabroso."
I eat the mirror; it is dangerous, but tasty.

Russian: "Pozhalsta podyerzitsya moy butterbrot s serom; samovarr vzrvayitsya."
Please hold my cheese sandwich; the samovar is exploding.
(I'm sure my romanization bears little to no resemblance to the actual spellings. My pronunciation is pretty awful, too.)

Ukranian: "Tak, tak, beznatsny' beton!"
Yes, yes, meaningless cement!

Chinese (mandarin?): "Wo/ ur\ sura_ gao^ ro_."
I am hungered to death for dog meat
(That's what it's supposed to mean, anyway. I'm all but certain that it means nothing of the sort, because I'm pretty sure that I've mangled a number of the phonemes (isn't "death" == "sha"?) and the pitches (which I've attempted to indicate with weird punctuation) are difficult and pretty much guaranteed to be wrong. But since it's intended to be a whimsical meaningless sentence, whatever it does end up meaning when I say it is probably just as good.)

Zulu: "Ukizella n'ch'on ch'e impahla ga'ant."
A gazelle has stolen my uncle's clothing.
(Yes, it's for-really Zulu! I got it from our game preserve guide when I went on a trip to South Africa. The "hl" is actually a weird non-western phoneme that you get when you turn an L into a voiceless fricative at the edges of your tongue. I think it's the same as Welsh "LL", but I'm not sure. I was psyched that I heard it. The apostrophes are glottal stops.)

And the brand-new one, thanks to Laura and a friend of hers!
Classical Greek: "ho pithekos eklepsen tas anaxuridas tas emas"
The monkey stole my pants.

Woo-hoo!

P.S.: I used to have a Japanese sentence about pachinko machines that I could never remember, so I'm working on a new one. I don't think the grammar is all there, but it's something like: "Are no saru wa, kirei no midori iro, des ne?" (Yonder monkey is a pleasant green color, don't you think?)


Edit: Added Rebar's Esperanto sentence.

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: bikerbearmark
2005-03-02 07:44 am (UTC)
Tak! Tak!

<rolling on the ground laughing>

Thanks - this is a great list! And as for your last sentence, I would put that:

"Ano saru wa, kirei na midori iro desu ne!"
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-03-02 10:00 am (UTC)
Eehhxxcellent!
Thanks very much! (And wow, I was actually halfway close. Woo-hoo!)
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[User Picture]From: drdeleto
2005-03-02 07:50 am (UTC)
I want to hear the story of how you explained to the game preserve guide why you needed to know how to say something so silly. Did you let him decide what the silly phrase would be, or did you come up with the sentence and ask him to translate?
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-03-02 09:55 am (UTC)
I tried just asking "would you teach me how to say something nonsensical in Zulu?", but he was sufficiently perplexed by the request that I ended up coming up with the phrase myself.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2005-03-02 08:03 am (UTC)
A friend of mine collects foreign translations of "Don't shoot! I am a table!" Her theory is that if armed goons start waving guns around in a cafe, or something like that, she can say this and thereby convey simultaneously that:
a) she is harmless, and
b) she has absolutely no idea what is going on

I think it's a good theory.
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[User Picture]From: arcticturtle
2005-03-02 08:38 am (UTC)
I will be happy to provide an Esperanto sentence, if only you can suggest something inspiredly useless. Or does it have to be mined from a "legitimate" source? (So did you have Unsere Freunde, too?)

There's always "Mia kusenveturilo estas plena de angiloj" (My hovercraft is full of eels)...
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-03-02 09:59 am (UTC)
D'oh! "My hovercraft is full of eels" IS my Esperanto sentence, I just forgot to include it in the list!

There, fixed. (And now the word endings, three of which I had mangled in my memory, are correct.)
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-03-02 09:06 am (UTC)
It's a good thing you don't think your Chinese resembles the sentence you typed, or you just might find yourself being fed dog meat. They think we're nuts already and may just honor your request to see what you do.

Rosemary
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2005-03-02 11:17 am (UTC)
Here's the page for translations of Oh my God, I've got an axe in my head! Alas, the I Can Eat Glass, It Does Not Harm Me project has gone to archive hell. However, if I recall correctly, "Nook dak yooch da pohl" means something like "Give me the chocolate" in Klingon.

And, of course, there's always "Quantum materiæ materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari"— i.e. How much wood...
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[User Picture]From: madbodger
2005-03-02 02:41 pm (UTC)
There's a page out there with "All your base" translated into various languages, too.

My favourite Latin one is "Auribus teneo lupum", which means something like "I hold a wolf by the ears."

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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-03-02 04:54 pm (UTC)
May i correct your grammar?

Spanish: "Yo como la espejo; esta peligroso, pero sabroso."
I eat the mirror; it is dangerous, but tasty.


Correctly: "Yo como el espejo; es peligroso, pero sabroso."
Mirrors are masculine, not feminine, hence 'el' not 'la'. 'es' instead of 'está' because the degree of danger is neither temporary nor changeable.


And a plain old explanatory comment:

Chinese (mandarin?): "Wo/ ur\ sura_ gao^ ro_."
I am hungered to death for dog meat
(That's what it's supposed to mean, anyway. I'm all but certain that it means nothing of the sort, because I'm pretty sure that I've mangled a number of the phonemes (isn't "death" == "sha"?) and the pitches (which I've attempted to indicate with weird punctuation) are difficult and pretty much guaranteed to be wrong. But since it's intended to be a whimsical meaningless sentence, whatever it does end up meaning when I say it is probably just as good.)


Wǒ è sì.le = literally "I hunger death(emphatic suffix)" in Mandarin (putonghua). è becomes èr in many dialects, especially west of Beijing, where it therefore becomes Wǒ èr sì.le I transliterated using hanyu pinyin. And 'sì' is death/die, as well as the number 4, which is why 4 is very unlucky in Chinese culture.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-03-02 05:21 pm (UTC)
Wow, the Chinese is much closer than I thought! Though I would still bet that my pronunciation is horrible. And I've never been any good with noun genders in any language.

Thanks! Helpful corrections!

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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-03-02 06:16 pm (UTC)
Wow, the Chinese is much closer than I thought!


:) And i think your hobby's cool. But i love language, so what do i know. I have a very severe allergy to anise, and have learned to say "I am deathly allergic to Anise", or its equivalent, in 17 languages, just in case i need to explain it to whomever/wherever.

Also, in your Spanish sentence, the word 'Yo' is optional. Subject pronouns are not required in Spanish.
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2005-03-02 07:26 pm (UTC)

It sounds so simple. . .

. . . but, of course, "un dia" meaning a morning or a day is masculine in spanish. So "Buenos dias" not "buenas dias."

But I suspect that this is because "dia" was a shortened form of "diario" way back when.

Anyway, lest anyone thing only English has silly exceptions to every rule. . .
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-03-02 08:15 pm (UTC)

Re: It sounds so simple. . .

In Spanish, words ending in the letter A are feminine, and require a la as the singular definite article except when:

    the word begins with a stressed A, therefore el agua fría, but las aguas frías.

    the word is derived from Greek, hence el mapa and los mapas.

    you are speaking about a male llama.


The word día is from the Latin die, which is masculine; diario means daily in both Latin and Spanish, and is the form from which English derives the word diary.

Buenos días translates as hello in its most formal and/or polite sense, as compared to Hola which is friendlier and less formal. </i>Una buena mañana a [usted or ti]</i> is literally a good morning to you, though Buenos díasis usually used in its stead. Una buena madrugada a [usted or ti] is literally a good early (connotation of pre-dawn or much earlier than the addressee usually wakes) morning to you. I don't think we have a single word that means madrugada in English. The verb madrugar is usually translated as rising with (or just before) the sun.

Mañana is most accurately translated into English as morrow, archaic word for morning, and the root for the word tomorrow, condensed from toward the morrow.

Oops, sorry. Didn't mean to go all pedantic on you. :">
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[User Picture]From: bryree
2005-03-02 08:46 pm (UTC)
Can't ... stop ... chuckling...

Ooh! and I have a pachinko machine at my house! OK, it belongs to my housemate, but still...
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[User Picture]From: flwyd
2005-03-03 06:51 pm (UTC)
How to say "I Love You" in various languages.

A friend of mine in high school collected translations of "Talk to the hand, not to the face." I discovered in Welsh that it's Siaradwch wrth y llaw ddim i'r wyneb.

I suspect that the "hl" of which you refer is the same phoneme as the Welsh double l. And I will also note that Welsh cows say "mw."
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2013-02-20 06:07 pm (UTC)
"Yo como la espejo; esta peligroso, pero sabroso."
I eat the mirror; it is dangerous, but tasty.

This should be "Yo como el espejo; es peligroso, pero sabroso."

That is, "espejo" is masculine-gendered, and you want the "ser" version of "to be" not the "estar" version. At least, I assume you mean to suggest that it is dangerous as a general rule, rather than that it is transiently in a state of dangerousness.
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