The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 977: Say it in English ... and out ... and in(-ish)

By the E, Pat Myers

Happy pre-weekend, everyone — and perhaps even pre-pre-weekend, thanks to the premature appearance of this week’s Invitational online, due either to my incompetence (always plausible) or to our “content management system,” The Evil Methode, not working properly (equally always plausible). What-everrr.

This week’s contest was a tremendous hit when we first ran it in April 2004. I had played this game with my then-young children — we’d type in the words to, say, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”; have Google translate them into French; paste the result back into the translator; and ask for that in English — and giggled with them over the gibberish that resulted. The challenge for the Invite would be whether people would come up with examples that were cleverly funny rather than just nonsensically funny.

It worked far beyond my expectations. First of all, I got more than 450 e-mails — a huge response for the Invitational then or now (remember, that a large number of them had multiple entries, and there was no entry limit back then). But what was so much fun was that many of the mistranslations were cleverly ironic or otherwise pointedly funny (not to mention dirty). And it became clear that some people had figured out which words to use to make the translator mess up in exactly the way they wanted, not only by using English expressions that predictably would produce a mistaken liiteral translation (like Tom Witte’s “batter batter batter swing), but by anticipating Google’s inadequacy in, say, producing the two-word French negative that makes the difference between “ever” and “never,” as in the just-perfect winner.

Here’s the Report From Week 551 — notice that just-silly can be pretty funny, too.

--Fourth runner-up: The Mamas and the Papas
(From Portuguese) The Breasts and the Popes (Brendan Beary, Great Mills)

--Third runner-up: I never yet met a man that I didn’t like.
(From Spanish) I never satisfied a man yet with which I did not have pleasure. (Jeff Martin, Gaithersburg)

--Second runner-up: The U.S. government is composed of three branches: the executive, the legislative and the judicial.
(From French) The government of the United States is composed of three branches: the director, the legislature and the legal one. (Shawn Freeman, Vestavia Hills, Ala.)

-- First runner-up, the winner of a “Today Show” baseball cap autographed by Katie Couric: Google translates text with no errors.
(From Portuguese) Google translates the text with nenhuns errors. (Scott Campisi, Wake Village, Tex.)

--And the winner of the Inker: I am the worst president elected ever.
(From French) I am the worst president never elected. (Kevin N. Mettinger, Warrenton)

Honorable Mentions:

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
(French) Do you swear not to say the truth, all the truth and anything but the truth? (Ron Prishivalko, Reston)

Don’t mess with Texas.
(Spanish) It does not soil with Roofing tiles. (Rose Abril, Reston)

Some men are born great.
(Portuguese) Some men are great loaded. (Diane Tomasky, Frederick; Jeff Martin)

Monica was a woman of loose morals.
(Portuguese) Monica was a flabby moral woman. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.
(German) You are fat and powerful forces come to your aid. (Beverly L. Mangold, Rockville)

I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
(Spanish) It did not have sexual relations with that woman. (Ben Llewellyn, Rockville; Vincent Danton, Bowie; Shawn Freeman)

I’ll be working my way back to you, babe, with a burning love inside.
(Portuguese) I will be working my back part to it in the way, dribble, with a burning hot love for inside. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it . . .
(Spanish) In his I castrate of Passover, with all the steering wheels on him . . . (Larry Carnahan, Arlington)

(German) The milk chocolate melts in your opening, not in your hands. (Beth Ciha, Silver Spring)

At Ford, quality is Job One.
(German) At Fords quality is job of one. (Andrew Dutton, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.)

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
(Spanish) The true mystery of the world is the visible one, not the hair net. (Michelle Bowen-Ziecheck, Chicago)

A good man is hard to find.
(German) A good man is to be found hard. (Jeremy Eble, Silver Spring)

Herbert wanted to leave bachelorhood with a bang by throwing a stag party.
(French) Herbert wanted to leave the celibacy with a blow by throwing part of male. (Marjorie Bunday, Washington)

We will never surrender the fight!
(French) We will never return the combat! (Jonathan Obee, Washington)

Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad.
(German) Hey, do not form Jew, it bad. (Jeff Martin)

After an hour of exercise, you will feel stronger. (French)
After one hour of exercise, you will smell yourselves more extremely. (Pat Lark, Arlington)

Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him.
(German) Alas, bad Yorick, I could do him. (Jim Pearson, Alexandria)

Picking out the man’s outfit is a woman’s job.
(French) The selection of the equipment of the man is the work of a woman. (Milo Sauer, Fairfax)

(From Portuguese) You deserve a rupture today. (Dot Yufer, Newton, W.Va.; Allen Breon, Rockville; Chris Doyle)

The well-coached Washington politician showered pork gravy on his constituents.
(French) The politician well-given of the particular lessons of Washington poured sauce with the juice of pig on his components. (Milo Sauer)

I keep my food fresh with preservatives.
(French) I preserve my fresh food with condoms. (Rebecca Shoaf, Minneapolis)

If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. (French)
If named, I did not run. So elected, I will not be useful. (John Junker, Manassas; Chris Doyle)

Batter, batter, batter, batter, batter, batter, swing!
(French) Smooth paste, smooth paste, smooth paste, smooth paste, smooth paste, smooth paste, oscillation! (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)

Bitch set me up.
(Portuguese) The dog adjusted to me above. (Allen Breon, Clarksville; Julius Sanks, Ashburn)

Does a computer know how to tell a poop joke?
(German) Can a computer explain one poopwitz? (Brendan Beary)

I miss the Czar. (French) I am bored of the Czar. (Dan Steinberg, Falls Church)

But that was eight years ago — several eons in techno-time. I ran a bunch of the above results through Translate in a lot of languages, and they translated dismayingly perfectly. But there are still problems to be found, and computers work a lot faster these days. And I’m adding the option of going from foreign language to foreign language before returning to English — I think this will really help you out.

Tips on using Google Translate. This is an amazingly good tool by now, extremely easy to use. Remember that I’m not asking you to supply me with the foreign sentence — just the original English phrase and the final English sentence — so it’s just as easy to use a language that has a foreign alphabet: Just use the copy/paste function: When Google’s translation appears in the box on the right, highlight that text, click on Copy or Ctrl-c; then put your mouse at one end of the original text on the left, and hold down the Backspace or Delete key to rub it out. Then click on Paste or Ctrl-v to enter the foreign phrase in the left-hand box, and select the options for, say, from Hindi to English.


So what would happen with our usually sure-fire foal-name contest when, instead of giving people 100 names to work with (or maybe 70 for the grandfoals), we’d limit it to 33 horses, almost all of whom either didn’t get ink the first time around or weren’t deemed useful enough even to include in that first hundred?

A dang fine performance, I’d say. Once again, I ended up with more good entries than I could use. The only difference was that there was a higher proportion of duplication this time around — for example, maybe a dozen people sent in Teeth of the Dog x Full Cry = Old Yeller, or Sabercat x Lemon Drop Kid = Sourpuss, or Lemon Drop Kid x Fox Rules = Acid Reign. But if those entries canceled themselves out, there were many dozens of unique ones, or twice-submitted ones, to compensate.

It’s the 18th win for the unbelievable Kevin Dopart, who’d been just a bit more believable lately; he hadn’t won the Invite since last December’s food-art contest. And racehorse names have never been his strongest suit, to mix gaming metaphors. So Kevin gets his first Inkin’ Memorial, not to mention Inks 860 and 861 — all of those accumulated in less than seven years. It’s something like a speed horse leading the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes wire to wire.

Other Invite vets took the runner-up spots as well this week: Michigander Mama Judy Blanchard gets perilously close to that 100th ink with the toilet-night-light-winning second place and two honorable mentions. Mike Gips, who’s been winning Loser crap almost unceasingly these days — he debuted in Week 509, but has upped his game enormously lately — gets a little more of it along with Inks 59 and 60 this week. And J.D. Berry, who’d gotten ink way back in Week 442 but has similarly made a concerted effort his game in the past year, gets his 23rd blot.


Actually, not too many this week — of course, such names on the first list as Late Night Action and Back Door Strike were grabbed immediately by the cleverly filthy Losers in Week 969. But of course a few managed to make it to the foaling shed. Such as:
Full Cry x Boltzapper = Bawl Buster (Rick Haynes)
Sabercat x Take Charge Indy = Pussy Whipped (Ben Aronin)
Chief Gaga x The Caller = Star 69 (Rob Huffman)


There will be an almost impromptu Loser Lunch — aka Dorkness at Noon — on Friday, June 22, at 12:30, at Pizzeria Paradiso in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, Va. Mike Gips has a prize to give me, and so far, Nan Reiner and the aptly named Pie Snelson will be joining us. If you’d like to join in, contact me right away at myerspat [at] gmail, and we’ll figure out how big a table we should get. I’m always eager to meet new Losers or just Invite fans as well as the regulars.


I just heard that a play co-written by Style Invitational Hall of Famers (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) and (Jennifer Hart, Arlington) will premiere in September at a night of four one-acts presented in Sandy Spring, Md., in Montgomery County near Olney. It’s called “Love Match” and my hunch is that it’s a comedy. This seems to me like a Loser Event in the works; more details as they emerge.

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