Imagine a status update or tweet that could be read, instantly, in a language of your choosing. Such a breakthrough would dissolve at a stroke the linguistic silos that currently divide even the most multinational of social networks. Small wonder translation tools are considered a grail technology of the digital communications world.
As Cision works toward becoming a completely joined up global company, we’ve seen some interesting exchanges between departments all over the world. Some of these are surreal; few are as surreal as those concerning Google Translate’s attempts to go from US to UK English.
As is often the case with transatlantic perceptions, films (or “the movies”) have a lot to answer for. Google Translate speaks UK English like someone who has enjoyed repeated viewings of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mary Poppins, The Long Good Friday, and Trainspotting.
So here for your enjoyment (and in the spirit of a tweeting Dr Johnson) are our Top Ten Google Translate US English to UK English Translations. Either the grail is further away than we thought, or someone at the Googleplex has a keen sense of transatlantic humour.
Old English word for “news”, one that Google might do well to adopt elsewhere. Google Tidings, we think, could sound less threatening to the newspaper industry.
9. Dicky Bird
1930s Cockney rhyming slang for “word”. Menacing enough when Bob Hoskins puts a finger over his lips and whispers, “not a dicky bird”. Even more menacing when a Microsoft Dicky Bird Document is requested.
Late 18th century term for an American, sometimes but not always derogatory. Hence Cision’s Premium North Yankee Data Set, not available in the Confederacy.
7. Dog and Bone
1940s Cockney rhyming slang for “phone”. A stone cold classic.
6. Glaswegian Phonetics
GT recently announced that it was adding pronunciation guidance to its services, and evident from our tests is GT’s tendency to adopt the patois of a murderous, drug-dependent Hibs supporter: Would yeh fancy to add this contact to the active workspace? Mind you, the Glasgow lilt doesn’t stop GT from occasional going Boys From the Blackstuff (ta for sending yer media update request) or even 17th century Puritan (Thank Yea!).
Always a tricky call where slang’s concerned, but I think this is a misspelling of gaff, a word that emerged in the early 19th century meaning threatre or showroom, later becoming synonymous with “home”. But as in “residence”, not as in Click here to go to the Cision gaffe page.
Morning. Seldom seen since Shakespeare, thankfully.
It’s not what you think – that’s not the kind of relationship-building software we make. In fact, it’s more like a telebox, as in a tranny or telebox station.
1960s spelling, from the mid-19th century scarper but truer to its Italian roots (scappare!) and the 1910s rhyming slang (scapa flow, go). In short, perfectly respectable english slang for “run”. Not so perfectly acceptable when clicking here to save and scapa.
You know how irritating those “Oops!” messages on your screen can be? Take that. Multiply by a google.
ERRATUM: Trainspotting accents might have more to do with Auld Reekie than Glasgow. Humble apologies to Welsh, Boyle, and Hibs fans. Ouch.