Word Ways

Article Title

Of Visa For The Mind


Faith W. Eckler


We've all heard the story, possibly apocryphal, about the computer program for language translation which renders "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" into Russian and then back to English as "The whiskey is fine but the meat has gone bad." I wondered just how likely it was that such a humorous result would occur and, more importantly, just how useful is such a program for meaningful translation? Using the Lernout & Hauspie Simply Translating program which translates English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish and from those languages back to English, I picked six common aphorisms to test, converting each first to the foreign language and then back to English.