Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hankie enlightenment

I found an absolute gem in my automated search results this morning: a bio of a man I know fairly well, having worked for two of the organisations named in the piece. However, it turns out that I didn't know him anywhere near as well as I thought I did. I never knew, for example, that this man "as good as graduated with a BSc in Biology"1, or that he has an "MSc in dungeon physiology"2. And apparently "during his healing precision he was severely shabby"3.

I had no idea.

Judging by the torturous grammar and hilarious word choices, the bio seems to have been dragged through several iterations of Google Translate (or possibly just translated by my cat Google, which is an equally good explanation).

Google had a tough day on Sunday

I'm guessing that someone with less than stellar English then replaced every second or third word using a random selection from a thesaurus.

Now, we all know that science and spell checkers don't mix, but apparently scientific language forms an even more disastrous partnership with automated translation tools and/or careless thesaurus use. From disaster, however, springs hilarity: the cell/dungeon confusion was funny enough, but my absolute favourite part was the translation of "tissue culture" as "hankie enlightenment".


As soon as I could stop laughing, I sent the link to several friends who also know the distiguished dungeon physiologist in question. One of them pointed out that the torturous translation process was no doubt intended to disguise the text's origin as a plagiarised Wikipedia entry.

Compare and contrast.

It truly is a privilege to see such outstanding scholarship in action!


1) the many instances of "as good as" seem to be replacements for "as well as", "and", & "also"
2) "dungeon" = "cell"
3) apparently, "severely shabby" = "greatly influenced", as in by a particular mentor. I had to check this one against the original text.


  1. Genocide! Yikes! (Hard to get beyond that point without dying of laughter - or genociding myself?)

  2. google translator solely exists for the purpose of a good laugh every now and then. A friend of mine translated a persian abstract into french, but since no one spoke enough french to see hilarious mistakes, it was a wasted effort. So he put the translation into his thesis.

  3. BAHAHA... Cath, you made me laugh out loud! Reading the first paragraph, I was convinced that it came from someone who had used Google Translate to convert their CV into English (with hilarious results).

    Dungeon physiologist, love it.

    I'm curious, though, to hear your thoughts - does the last paragraph not seem oddly commercial for Wikipedia?

  4. Hilarious. We do a lot of dungeon and hankie enlightenment in our lab. I've relayed the story to everyone who wanted to listen.

  5. Silver Fox, please don't genocide yourself! Seek help from a crony!

    Nina, um, why?! Was it relevant to his research, or was it just to amuse any French readers?

    SB, I was in a meeting this morning about generating cell lines from primary tumours and kept imagining little cells in a dungeon. Oh dear.

    Regarding your question: remember that anyone can create a Wikipedia page, for whatever reason they choose.

    Makita, I'm glad you're spreading the joy! Mr E Man laughed so hard when I told him about this last night, he almost chocked on his beer!

  6. Cath- Is possible or I think that it is a problem of not knowing how to make, the pertinent relationships with the appropriate words.

  7. From now on I will refer to graduate students as "connoisseur students". Tee hee. And I like that "35 connoisseur students [are] as good as 40 post doctoral fellows", apparently.

  8. I am still chuckling about the translation. So much fun! Oh, the comments I have crafted in my head - too much of a chicken to post them though :).

  9. LMAO! That is freaking awesome.
    For a second I thought maybe you found this guys Dungeons and Dragons CV.

  10. Alejandro, I think you're right - someone tried to disguise the fact that they'd copied from Wikipedia, but did not speak English well enough to notice how bad the "translation" is!

    Sonja, yes, it's a nice conversion factor if you're a colourful connoisseur student. I also like that apparently biology [is] as good as mathematics, and Canada [is] as good as abroad.

    However, I do not agree that Toronto [is] as good as Vancouver.

    Mermaid, that's probably for the best :)

    MXX, that would also be hilarious! I sincerely doubt that he plays though.

    Now get back to your microbe enlightenment!

  11. Cath is true, this biography of wikipedia (sorry I'd not read it) must have made the translation an person that not speaking English.

    I think even I'd do best...

  12. Good lord that's even harder to understand than most journal articles ;)
    But also the best laugh of the week, especially the part where they translated the pub list. Did you send the link to the person in question? I bet he would be (hankie?) enlightened to learn he'd published a paper on "Changes in a proliferative wake up of tellurian hematopoietic branch cells in NOD/SCID mice as good as encouragement of their transplantability after in vivo diagnosis with dungeon cycle inhibitors"
    Or maybe the standards at J Ex Med have really gone downhill...

  13. WOW - I didn't even look at the references!!! Thanks for the tip!

  14. p.s. if I sent the link, he might make the people responsible take it down, which would be a shame :)


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