Monday, August 07, 2006

Comment Type #30


Babel Fish
Translation is the process of changing a statement or text from one language to another as directly and literally as possible. With written text, usually the meaning is captured while adapting the text to make best sense in the resulting language. There are websites that will take text and translate it directly into other languages; for example, Alta Vista's Babelfish (a reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) can translate between dozens of languages:
Original text: The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.
Translated into Spanish: El zorro rojo rápido saltó sobre el perro marrón perezoso.
Translated back into English: The fast red fox jumped on the sluggish brown dog.
As you can see the basic meaning is kept, but the result is not exactly precise. For written text, this process of translation is actually closer to the work of interpretation done for spoken language. For speech, translation is as close as possible to what the person said, even if it is a bit clumsy in the other language. Interpretation is taking what is said and changing it to be smoother and easier to understand, changing idioms like "it's in the bag" to make more sense in another language.

For internet comments, the Translation is a comment that takes what someone else says and renders it into plainer language, or interprets it to what the person really meant to say but did not. This is sometimes done on religious or political boards for a comment by someone so different in ideology that they are nearly incomprehensible. Their use of words and terms may be so different that what they have said and what they mean may be entirely different to someone else. Sometimes even words they use are unknown such as acronyms and abbreviations:
The Selected One MIHOP 9/11 so that the foreign Neocons controlling government could have their blood for oil!

Translation: President Bush made 9/11 happen so that the Jews could have a war against their neighbors
At times this can be very useful, some comments are just gibberish because the person was too drunk, excited, or tired to type clearly. Sometimes they simply don't have much of a grasp on the language or spelling to say what they mean to. Some people are simply difficult to understand, such as the Curmudgeon comment can be. A good Translation comment can help everyone.

However, there is another kind of Translation comment that is less altruistic. Instead of trying to make a comment more clear, this kind of translation is instead intended to mock the person posting or make a point about them or their ideas.
I don't have the information in front of me but college professors are known for being ivory tower intellectuals who are out of touch with the real world and surround themselves with similar-thinking friends.

I don't know what I'm talking about, and have no proof, so I'll just make up stuff, repeating a baseless cliché about intellectuals because I and my sister I married have a tiny brain and fear higher learning.
As you can see, while the translation may be accurate in terms of it's initial point (no proof, repetition of a cliché) it's clearly just a veiled attack on the person posting. Further, it doesn't address the point made - this allegation may very well be true (and in the case of at least some profs, it is).

Some translations can simply be personal attacks with zero accuracy or translation happening at all like "translation: I'm a moron, ignore me." Some might be very accurate such as "translation: I'm a troll with a pathetic need for attention!" Overall, the use of translations should be limited carefully or they lose impact and interest. Certainly one ought never use a translation to make a bare personal attack, or to reinterpret someone's post to mean something it never did to begin with.

If done right, this can be helpful, entertaining, and interesting. If not, it's simply a weak way to hurt people who you don't even know and who cannot fight back except by typing in a forum they likely are all-but-alone in.

This is part of the Profiles in Commenting Series
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