For a few days now, various contributors to Language Log have been exploring the fact that repeatedly typing one letter, character or syllable, or even a string of random letters, characters or syllables, into Google Translate results in ‘translations’ which a) have nothing to do with those letters, characters or syllables and b) are sometimes funny, baffling or seemingly meaningful. In the first such post, Mark Liberman reported that Japanese ュース (which Google Translate translates as juice) entered repeatedly eventually results in:
It is a good thing for you to do.
It is good to know the things you do not do.
It is good to know the things you do not mind.
It is a good idea to have a good view of the surrounding area.
The church service I attend in Korea is entirely in Korean, but it is a prayer book Mass/Holy Communion service relevantly identical to those I’ve attended all my life in Australia. There are three Bible readings plus a Psalm. The readings and Psalm are listed in the weekly notes, and I can read in English as the reader is reading in Korean. Some books of the Bible are easier to find, and some are harder. All but two of the books of the New Testament are named after people, the exceptions being Acts and Revelation, but those are usually seasonal – Acts is read in the weeks following Easter, and Revelation in the last few weeks of ordinary time and during Advent.
I have seen two hairdressing salons called ‘[name’s] hear shop’. Korean has a perfectly good word for ‘hair’, but most hairdressing salons and haircare products use the English loanword 헤어 (he-eo). ‘hear’ would be 히어 (he-eo), which I haven’t seen, but 비어 (be-eo) is sometimes used for ‘beer’, alongside the Korean 맥주 (maek-ju).
This morning’s New Testament reading was Romans 8:14-17. Of particular linguistic interest is verse 10: ‘you received the Spirit of sonship [fn: Or adoption]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”‘ (NIV) Abba is the Aramaic word for father, which Paul uses alongside the Greek equivalent: Αββα ὁ πατήρ (abba ho pater). (Paul uses it twice, here and in Gal 4.6, and Mark once, in 14.36.) Some commentaries state that the Aramaic word has connotations of intimacy and childlike trust (indeed some paraphrase it as ‘Daddy, Father); others that it is the usual, natural, neutral word. If there is a connotation of intimacy, it is because Aramaic was the language of the home and everyday life, whereas Koine Greek was the lingua – um – franca of international communication (which is why the New Testament was written in it).
Students were writing dialogues or speeches to present for their midterm speaking exams. I briefly checked as many as I could, but couldn’t check every detail of every one. As the students were leaving, one pair put their dialogues in front of me and said ‘Is this right?’. I glanced over it and one sentence jumped out at me: “I used to be cremated.” All I could say was “That’s just wrong. Check it very carefully.”