Was??

Cidu Bill on Feb 21st 2010

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Does anybody know enough German to translate this?

Filed in 9 Chickweed Lane, Bill Bickel, Brooke McEldowney, German, comic strips, comics, humor | 28 responses so far

28 Responses to “Was??”

  1. Kamino Neko Feb 21st 2010 at 07:10 pm 1

    My German’s not that great, but, it appears to be ‘Believe me, it’s not what you think’ - in other words, exactly what Edie asked him to say.

  2. Andrew Feb 21st 2010 at 07:31 pm 2

    “Believe me, it’s different than you think”. A stretch for a joke, especially when putting it into a foreign language.

  3. Steven Hunter Feb 21st 2010 at 08:22 pm 3

    Babelfish thinks he said “Please, they believe to me, it are differently than them think.”

    Ah technology…

  4. Kamino Neko Feb 21st 2010 at 08:27 pm 4

    It’s not a stretch, or a joke - Edie told him to tell them it’s not what it looks like, to ensure they’d think it WAS what it looked like. Because he’s been passing her intelligence and this is an attempt to ensure he doesn’t get his throat cut as a traitor by the other prisoners.

  5. CTew Feb 21st 2010 at 09:04 pm 5

    KN has it right, as does Andrews’ translation. This is plain, basic German and doesn’t involve any convolutions or idioms. The real punchline came the next day, 20 February.

  6. Alexander D. Mitchell IV Feb 21st 2010 at 11:54 pm 6

    “Please, believe you me, it is other than it appears.”

    Or, in a more straightforward interpretation, “Please, believe me, it’s not what it looks like.”

    The German is as the sentiment would be rendered in German; my second translation is how any native English speaker would render the thought.

  7. Soup Dragon Feb 22nd 2010 at 03:37 am 7

    I guess everybody has got it by now, I just wanted to point out that translate.google.com appears to do better than babelfish: “Please, believe me, it’s different than you think”.

    The glances the other prisoners exchange seem to indicate that the strategy works.

  8. mkilby Feb 22nd 2010 at 03:58 am 8

    @ Soup Dragon (7) - Comparing Babelfish and Google Translate is difficult, because each has particular words and phrases that it does better or worse than the other system. Either way, the results are often quite comical. On several occasions I have dumped lists of German words into both systems, only to find that the “ideal” solution required picking and choosing the results (one from Column A, two from Column B, repeat ad lib until the end of the list).

    And in any case, I think those glances are more likely to mean a collective and appreciative “Sure it is…” (uttered sarcastically, with a slight undercurrent of jealousy).

  9. mitch4 Feb 22nd 2010 at 07:49 am 9

    mkilby — Yes, that’s the reaction. But also that’s the strategy, and Soup Dragon is correct in saying the strategy is working. They want to establish that they are flirting and smooching — establish it with the men by ostensibly denying it — so as to cover up a bit of espionage and double agency.

  10. mkilby Feb 22nd 2010 at 11:15 am 10

    @ mitch4 (9) - Thanks! I had look back through 4 or 5 strips at the 9CL website, but the response time was so slow that I gave up before I got far enough back to figure out whether there was another “real” strategy (besides the obvious heavy petting).

  11. Rainey Feb 22nd 2010 at 01:00 pm 11

    Before I read the comments, I just assumed it had something to do with Edie appearing that she needed to use the bathroom really bad in panel one. Or that she got hit in the crotch or upper leg by a thrown shoe.

  12. Dyfsunctional Feb 22nd 2010 at 01:23 pm 12

    Along the same lines, today’s 9CL has some untranslated French: “Jái traversé les ponts de Cé.” Google translation: “Jai crossed bridges of Ce.” Babelfish: “Jái crossed the bridges of C.” It’s supposed to be a slightly encoded message from Edie to the German POW, but I have no clue. “C,” by the way, is a piece of music the German prisoner taught to Edie a few weeks back.

  13. mkilby Feb 22nd 2010 at 04:24 pm 13

    @ Dysfunctional (12) - I don’t know much about French, but I do know that the first word is supposed to be “J’ai” (with an apostrophe, not an accent). If you enter it that way, Yahoo’s Babelfish turns “J’ai” into “J’”, which is hardly an improvement, but Google’s translation improves to “I crossed the Bridge of Ce.

    On the face of it, there might be a connection to the French tune “Pont d’Avignon” - do you have any idea when the “Cé” music appeared in 9CL?

  14. mkilby Feb 22nd 2010 at 04:41 pm 14

    … Google’s translation improves to “I crossed the Bridge of Ce.”

    I had to recheck that. Fixing the “J’ai” causes Google to revert “les ponts” (clearly plural in the original) to a singular, capitalized “Bridge”. Oops - yet again we have proof that machine translations are not to be trusted (caveat lector). I think the proper rendering should be “I crossed the bridges of Cé”, but I would still like to see what the “Cé” music was.

  15. Lord Jubjub Feb 22nd 2010 at 06:06 pm 15

    ‘Ander als’ can be translated as ‘anything but’. I would translate word for word:

    “Please, believe you me. This is anything but [what] you think.”

  16. mitch4 Feb 22nd 2010 at 06:25 pm 16

    mkilby — The song they are calling “C.” was discussed Feb. 5, 6, and 8 (http://comics.com/9_chickweed_lane/2010-02-05/ and following). There was no music shown. Here is the description given on the 6th:

    “C.” is a kind of torch song to an abandoned France. The music was written by Francis Poulenc to a poem of Louis Aragon … and has been heard only since the occupation. It is deceptively quiet, intense and powerful.

    (Um, lowercasing mine.)

  17. Lord Jubjub Feb 22nd 2010 at 10:27 pm 17

    Les yeux d’Elsa

    That is the Aragon poem that Poulenc set music to. Anybody with a talent for translation is welcome to do so.

  18. Kamino Neko Feb 22nd 2010 at 11:33 pm 18

    C on YouTube, with lyrics.

    The quoted line (J’ai traverse les pont du Ce) is the first and last line of the poem/song, Les Ponts-de-Ce. (Not Les Yeux d’Elsa - that’s a different poem, and the title of the book both poems were published in.)

  19. mitch4 Feb 23rd 2010 at 02:50 am 19

    Thanks for that YouTube link! The poster’s commentary (opened under the “more info” link) along with the lyrics were really helpful.

    Though “Les Yeux d’Elsa” as KN says is not the title of this poem, neither is it entirely beside the point, as Edie is working under the name of Elsa and that is how the prisoner-officer knows her.

  20. mkilby Feb 23rd 2010 at 03:32 am 20

    @ Kamino Neko & mitch4 - Thanks very much for the insights to the French lyrics and the start date of this 9CL sequence (the previous connection problem is solved, I was able to read the whole story quickly).
    As for the German, all the various literal translations are informative, but beside the point. As already stated (@ 5 & 6), the syntax is entirely “normal” (for German), so it should be rendered as “normal” English: “Please believe me, it’s not what you think.” Also, I don’t see the “Elsa” connection. Lt. (”Leutnant“) Kiesl calls Edie “Fräulein Ernst“, and she signed the photo “Edie (Eva)”, not “Elsa” (although her use of any first name could be interpreted as wanting to deepen the friendship).
    P.S. Not that it is relevant, but for what it’s worth: as a normal word, “Kiesl” would mean “pebble”, and “ernst” means “serious”.

  21. mitch4 Feb 23rd 2010 at 03:57 am 21

    Re “Elsa” — sorry, simply my mistake. I was thinking of that “( Eva)” signature but didn’t look it up.

  22. ljdarten Feb 25th 2010 at 10:55 am 22

    when babelfish first came out I found you could do some interesting things by translating from one language and then back again. English to spanish, then spanish to english etc.

    get some really crazy stuff by going through a whole bunch of languages.

    Along the same lines you could make it translate a whole page recursively. so it would translate a translated page.

    god I wish I had that free time now.

  23. mitch4 Feb 25th 2010 at 08:39 pm 23

    These were probably apocryphal or at least exaggerated over time, but there were stories supposedly dating back to early Machine Translation projects of testing the systems by that circular translation procedure, in this case English -> Russian -> English. The story usually has a list of examples, many of them starting from proverbs or familiar sayings in English.

    The example that comes to mind is “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” ==> “The vodka is strong but the meat is rotten.”

    Sometimes these are presented with the goofy round-trip result given, and the reader is to guess the original.

  24. Soup Dragon Feb 28th 2010 at 02:57 pm 24

  25. mitch4 Mar 2nd 2010 at 09:43 am 25

    Soup Dragon, thanks for the link. It’s nice to see the “round-trip translation” idea is still providing amusement on the net. Sadly, I’m unfamiliar with these songs, so can only guess what the originals were before going thru the language machines.

  26. Soup Dragon Mar 2nd 2010 at 06:36 pm 26

    Well, that link appears to be from August 1999, so it’s more of a Hey look, geriatrics! than an ongoing amusement thing. The songs are by Prince, I’m pretty sure you can find them on youtube. The lyric stanzas referred to are

    From “Raspberry beret”:
    She wore a raspberry beret
    The kind you’d find in a second hand store

    From “1999″
    If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knockin’ on my door
    I got a lion in my pocket and, baby, he’s ready to roar

    From “When Doves Cry”:
    How can you just leave me standing?
    Alone in a world that’s so cold? (So cold)
    Maybe I’m just too demanding
    Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
    Maybe you’re just like my mother
    She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
    Why do we scream at each other?
    This is what it sounds like
    When doves cry

  27. mkilby Mar 2nd 2010 at 11:19 pm 27

    You don’t need a computer to mess up translations, humans do a better job. The Monty Python sketch where one character lands in court for deliberately making obscene mistakes in a foreign phrase book was an exaggeration, of course, but not by much.

  28. Schtroumpf Grognon Mar 15th 2010 at 06:26 pm 28

    Btw, it should be “Glaubt mir”, not “Glauben Sie mir”.

    There are three “you” in German, like in French or old English. (Except English & French use the plural 2nd person in formal tenses, where German uses the plural 3rd person with an upper case.)
    Informal, singular: Glaub mir
    Formal, singular: Glauben Sie mir
    Plural: Glaubt mir.

    Obviously, Kiesl is speaking to the crowd, not to a single guy.

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