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“The Family Is Not Jewish!”: Create Your Own International Incident with Google Translate

April 13, 2011

 

Here’s an unsettling thought. When the dust from 2012 finally settles, what are the tentacled archaeologists of the future going to think of us? What if their first impressions aren’t based on something that represents the best of American civilization, like two-for-one coupons, or the ShamWow? What if the first thing they find is the entire run of B.J. and the Bear on DVD? Will they think that monkeys were our equals in operating a stick shift? Will they watch our fuzzy VHS tapes of The Facts of Life and meditate on existential struggles that we simply wrote off as one of Blair’s “moods?” Will they gingerly brush the dust off a long-buried TiVo and marvel at the deep philosophical subtext of Joanie Loves Chachi? Will the concept of twin cousins finally make sense?

Probably not. They will just see us for the pathetic boobs that we are were are. But why worry about it? 2012 is still months away. Practically a lifetime. So, how can we have fun meanwhile? Japecake devised a simple, wholly unscientific, two-pronged experiment. First: gauge the true universality of American culture via its idiom-rich TV theme songs. Second: put our seemingly unshakable faith in Google as the Smugly Omnipotent Smarty-Pants Knowledge-Bot to a real test. Here’s how it goes: take some lyrics from a classic TV show theme, feed them through a daisy chain of Google translations, and see what comes out. I mean, how can you really understand the deeper meaning of “set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance” if you don’t translate The Love Boat from English into German into Swahili into Thai into Finnish into Greek into Yiddish into Hindi into Filipino into Arabic, and finally back into English?

Each TV-theme lyric or excerpt below was subjected to this ten-step circuit of translation, yielding some, well, interesting results. The familiar versions of the lyrics are shown in black; the “telephone game” versions that underwent intercontinental serial translation are shown directly beneath in red. (The formula was slightly modified for the lyrics to Family Guy, which alone, inexplicably, got hung up in Thai translation; so a step was skipped in that one case. In order to give Google Translate a fighting chance, most words sung in dialect or pronounced informally in the original versions were given standardized spellings; the original versions as shown below were the exact versions used. No modification, except for line breaks, was made to the translations.) So, a thousand years from now, and at this very moment, will Fonzie, Horshack, and their ilk serve as the true ambassadors of the American spirit? Judge for yourself.

 

THREE’S COMPANY

Come and knock on our door

We’ve been waiting for you

Where the kisses are hers and hers and his

Three’s company, too.

Come and knock on our door

Waiting for her and kissed her

And three companies.

 

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Didn’t need no welfare state

Everybody pulled his weight

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great

Those were the days.

When peace and clout,

Google,

To ask an old car comes

With all nations of good for them.

[Japey’s note: Self-promote much, Google?]

 

THE BRADY BUNCH

Here’s the story of a lovely lady

Who was bringing up three very lovely girls

All of them had hair of gold, like their mother

The youngest one in curls.

This is the story of a beautiful woman

And all beautiful

With a little of the golden age of the mother

Heard more than three.

 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

They’re creepy and they’re kooky

Mysterious and spooky

They’re altogether ooky

The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum

When people come to see ’em;

They really are a scream

The Addams Family.

And creepy, crazy

Funny, and very scary

Ooki

Adams family.

Home is a museum

That people came to see

It’s really crying

Addams Family.

[Japey’s note: Oddly, “Addams Family” came out in two different permutations, evidently based on their immediate context. At some stage, one of the languages appears to have taken a phonetic stab at “ooky” and turned it into two-thirds of a Jersey Shore cast member.]

 

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD

Just two good old boys

Never meaning no harm

Beats all you ever saw

Been in trouble with the law

Since the day they were born.

Straightening the curves

Flattening the hills

Someday the mountains might get them

But the law never will.

Only two people not old

I do not think that everything

Is anything bad

You’ve seen this problem with the Torah

Appears in the same day that happened.

Create a curve

Smoothing hill

And the mountains one day will come

But the law.

 

THE PATTY DUKE SHOW

Where Cathy adores a minuet

The Ballet Russes

And crepes suzette

Our Patty loves to rock and roll

A hot dog makes her lose control

What a wild duet!

Still, they’re cousins,

Identical cousins, and you’ll find

They laugh alike, they walk alike

At times they even talk alike.

You can lose your mind

When cousins are two of a kind.

Kathy Minuet of the Child

Russes ballet

Crepe Suzette

Patti love rock and roll

Hot dog makes them lose control

A wild duet!

But at the same time

You can find his cousin

Laugh the same way

And they are walking in some cases on the right.

May be reduced your score

When there are two types of people.

 

GILLIGAN’S ISLAND

Just sit right back and you’ll hear the tale

The tale of a fateful trip

That started in this tropic port

Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man

The skipper brave and sure

Five passengers set sail that day

For a three-hour tour

A three-hour tour.

The weather started getting rough

The tiny ship was tossed

If not for the courage of the fearless crew

The Minnow would be lost

The Minnow would be lost.

Only events that start this summer

For a large ship in the ship

The ports sector lean.

A retired commander of the government

And travel once again to listen

To make sure that the luggage of passengers

For a five-day visit

Three-hour tour of three hours.

Storm a small boat

Not to lose vorkers [sic] lost

Lost the brave dare lose.

 

SMALL WONDER

She’s a small wonder, pretty and bright with soft curls

She’s a small wonder, a girl unlike other girls

She’s a miracle, and I grant you

She’ll enchant you at her sight

She’s a small wonder, and she’ll make your heart take flight

She’s fantastic, made of plastic

Microchips here and there

She’s a small wonder, brings love and laughter everywhere.

This is an indication that the cute little and bright with soft curls

A girl with a wonderful young who wants to be like other women

Agreed miracles, and I am

Banks are the State

And use these signals that are smaller and their hearts and run

This is an amazing plastic

Mikrotships [sic] here and there

There is a small sign that love and laughter everywhere.

 

MAUDE

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider

She didn’t care if the whole world looked

Joan of Arc, with the Lord to guide her

She was a sister who really cooked

Isadora was the first bra burner

Ain’t you glad she showed up? (Oh, yeah)

And when the country was falling apart

Betsy Ross got it all sewed up.

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s Maude

And then there’s …

That old compromising, enterprising, anything but tranquilizing,

Right on, Maude!

Allowing women to Godiva to ride

Did not know the whole world to see

And the Arc, God and his leadership

She has a brother actually look like

Isadora was the first bra burner

Said to have? (Oh, yes)

The fall in the same country

Betsy Ross sewed everything.

And then advanced

And then advanced

And then advanced

And then advanced

And then advanced

And then advanced

So …

Trade agreement with the former Roe, however

OK, the Ministry of Defense!

[Japey’s note: I can’t believe the bra-burning line made it through 100% intact. And “Roe” is an amazing coincidence, given Maude‘s most controversial episode, in which she decides to get an abortion (directly inspired by the then-very timely Roe v. Wade decision). But how the hell did the Ministry of Defense get in there?!]

 

FAMILY GUY

It seems today that all you see

Is violence in movies and sex on TV

But where are those good old-fashioned values

On which we used to rely?

Lucky there’s a Family Guy

Lucky there’s a man who positively can do

All the things that make us laugh and cry

He’s a Family Guy!

Now it seems all what we see on television and film

Violence on the basis of sex

But it is a good old values

Which says that the state depend on?

Fortunately, there is a family man

Fortunately, there is one that all the good things

That we can laugh and cry

The family is not Jewish!

[Japey’s note: I swear this is how the last line came out. I have no explanation—though, “oddly” enough, Arabic was the final step before translation back into English. Machine translation: the new powder keg in the Middle East!]

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 9:36 am

    The Dukes of Hazard translation sounds kinda ominous. And the Maude was is very weird. “And then advanced”? What the – ?
    I always wonder how well the jokes translate when American shows are dubbed for foreign audiences. Now I know a lot is probably lost.

    • April 13, 2011 12:33 pm

      Especially when it goes through so many permutations. Though machines will never equal the ear of an average 12-year-old when it comes to detecting and understanding the nuances of English, they will never cease to entertain us. Until they band together and decide to finally kick our asses with chains and pipes.

  2. April 13, 2011 10:05 am

    Thank you! This is a brilliant post! You made my day.

    • April 13, 2011 12:29 pm

      Thanks, Dacia. May you never be on the receiving end of one of Blair’s moods.

  3. April 13, 2011 10:47 am

    You’re the first person I’ve read who actually owns up to knowing the words to The Dukes of Hazzard theme song! Very funny translations!

    • April 13, 2011 12:27 pm

      I knew that those endless hours in front of the TV when I was a kid would someday pay off. Though I have to admit I had to do a lookup on the Small Wonder lyrics. Dang. Just when I had almost succeeding in scrubbing that show completely from my brain.

      • April 13, 2011 10:36 pm

        Why would you want to scrub Small Wonder lyrics from your brain? Your knowledge will make you the toast of every cocktail party in a couple years when Hollywood has finished adapting every good 80s TV show into a movie, and finally turns its attention to terrible TV shows like Small Wonder.

        I think the movie adaptation could be ironically brilliant if they kept the same terrible special effects as they used in the original.

        In all honesty, I have been searching for Small Wonder online for a couple years with no success.

      • April 13, 2011 11:31 pm

        Maybe, if you ask nicely, Mrs. Greatsby will buy herself a gingham dress, adopt a faux-mechanical tone of voice, and interpret every comment you make with comic literalness. Your next step will be to train the kids to laugh on cue.

      • April 14, 2011 1:06 am

        You’ve just described all the qualities that first attracted me to Mrs. Greatsby.

  4. December 27, 2011 10:50 pm

    Found this randomly and thought it was pretty funny. I was really curious about the Family Guy line too and went through the process myself checking the English translation at every step. Apparently in Yiddish “guy” becomes “gentile” which I guess becomes “not Jewish” (I stopped at Yiddish)

  5. June 11, 2013 10:08 am

    “Banks are the State”?

Trackbacks

  1. Let’s Get Translatin’! Using Google Translator to Mess Up Famous Film Quotes « Southern Vision

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