Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

Stolen pants, exploding samovars, and other things you should not eat.

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.


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.

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