Bing Translator Goof-ups in Twitter

Humour, Language

This post is a compilation of one particular quirk that keeps showing up with unfailing regularity in the Twitter app on Nokia Lumia 720 whereby the ‘translated from’ language is often shown erroneously.  A stray translation mistake here or there is understandable, and maybe, even acceptable. As it is, the translation volunteered by the system in most cases isn’t even unnecessary. But over time this has turned into an amusing exercise to get surprised with  what random ‘translated from’ language gets thrown up next. —-

#1: POLISH             #2: ESTONIAN

pol est2

#3: DANISH               #4: HAITIAN-CREOLE

dan    hait2

#5: MALAY                #6: SLOVENIAN

malay  slov

#7: INDONESIAN       #8: DUTCH

indo   dutc

#9: FRENCH              #10: PORTUGEUSE

fre   port

And yes finally, it identified HINDI correctly!


BUT whether it translated that correctly… well, that’s a subject we may take up some other time.

—- Disclaimer: I have great respect for Microsoft, its products, its employees and also its users (I am one of them!) —-

Ek tooth. Ache tooth

Humour, Language

This conversation took place a little over three months ago when I had an impacted wisdom tooth surgically removed. Wincing in pain, over the next few days, I had put up a suitable ‘status’ message on my email/chat. Niyam saw that ‘status’ message and initiated this conversation. Proof that we indeed are a ‘status’ conscious society :-p
(Even though the hehes, heehees, hahas are all original, you should see them as the equivalent of canned laughter in television comedies… if you see no humour otherwise)

niyam: ever since you’ve published your line ‘the tooth shall prevail’ my wife has developed some tooth problem and visiting the dentist everyday, and my mom also developed another problem. All Co-inciDENTALLY, eh?

me: Did they visit a doctor? My APOLLOji’s :)

niyam: heheheheheee


when your teeth hurt, it needs GUMption to visit the dentist

me: actually it should have been –The TOOTH shall pre-WAIL!

niyam: heheheheee

yes, please change that

me: been there Daant that!

niyam: ufff!!! you and your Daante’s divine comedy

me: hehe

niyam: heheheeee

and when you need courage

you need diler

diler mehndi

me: :-) (Driller Mehndi!)

niyam: Tooth Tooth Tooth toothi iya

me: is — Toothache, toothache, toothache, tootiya….hey jamalo!

this one fits well

niyam: yup!

trust you to drill it in

me: mere Toothey drill ke tukdey!

niyam: you know the secret and the raaz of this

no wonder you are the

me: Razdaant?

niyam: Ra Howl Raaz Daant

me: :-D

me: dang! i cant even grin properly.. can’t open my mouth fully :-D

niyam: okay okay okay

time for you to get inspired for your next masterpiece at swadeshe

math teacher: what comes after 69? student: mouth-wash.

me: I have enough fodder for the next few months!


niyam: 32 chambers of Shaw Lin: dentist report on manek shaw


me: haha

and what do u call teeth marks on a person’s ass?

niyam: ?

me: Butt-teesi

niyam: heheheeeeeeeeeeeee

the history of dentistry: Toothpast.


me: and those guys who make tonnes of money drilling into people’s teeth?

hahaha past

Denture Capitalists!

niyam: heheheee

uff! rahul! ccchhhaa gaye

let’s have it on swadeshe PLEASE

me: hehe… lemme see

niyam: what do you call your mother’s brother in Antarctica were he a furry animal? Molar Bear

me: hahaha

What did the dog tell the bitch, to be invited to her place?

niyam: ?

me: Canine come over to your place, tonight?

niyam: yup

her address: K9, Bitch Alley


me: hehe

Ok… whats with YOUR status message?

niyam: true.

screwed with work. this is comic relief before i go into the mince meat machine again


ok lemme get back to work
And to all of you who have to get back to doing better things, after this “comic relief”, a very big thank you. Psst… The relief was all mine :-p

Famous Lost Words

Humour, Language, Zeitgeist

As a kid I swear I was really happy and gay! Now I have to say I am only happy :-( And why is that? Because through my growing up years the Americans systematically stole words from my lexicon and gave them meanings which ensured I can’t really pass them forward to the generations ahead.

Once upon a time you could tell a kid when the neighbourhood cat would come avisiting, “Look, the pussy cat is here.” Now I almost squirm uncomfortably when my 3-year old nephew points out a pussy cat to me! Or when going through his pictorial book, I can feel my tone change, as I have to point out the fowl called cock that I immediately try and deflect as Mr.Hen! And of course none of the stories I tell him can have a member of the feline species eat a rooster!

Similarly, I am afraid, in the coming years avid sportsmen would not be able to say ‘I like playing with balls’ — even if they were stating the obvious.

A lot of us had practically stopped using the idiom ‘A bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ for obvious reasons. Interestingly, this is one rare example where Americans brought back a word into ‘permissible conversation’ thanks to their political supremo — George W.Bush. Further President Bush brings the added advantage of rescuing another one of the ‘lost words’ — the ass! As far as contextual usage is concerned, mercifully this is one word that retains its in-sentence context — though its intended meaning has been corrupted too. I am sure some of you have read that ‘priest peddles his ass‘ joke.

The American influence of course permeates their entire continent. I don’t know if you have heard the Canadian slogan — if you’re a Canadian, show me your beaver!

Then there are other things in our lives where conventional words have been given new meanings making their usage even in the original context risqué.

For example, a screw helps you bond… a wooden plank with another. However, I remember a real-life incident during our architecture carpentry workshops, where this girl shouted across the room — “I want a screw.” I am sure you can guess the reaction from everyone around!

A long time ago, I also recall having seen an embroidery designer say that customers pay more for a hand job than a machine-job! Talking of designers and clothes, Tantra (the t-shirt makers) banked on another such lost word and sold quite a few t-shirts that said — ‘Rajasthan, the best place in India to look for a hump.’

However, when people profess “We can make out”, they may merely be referring to their superior ability to tell one shade of green from another! Similarly, a rueful “My husband always comes before me” could simply be a reference to the husband’s punctuality on their way back from their respective jobs!

Closer home, coming from a Kashmiri Pandit family, it was common for us to cook at home what we in Hindi call ‘keema’ (minced meat), bought from the local butcher. And towards creating the finest quality keema it was common for us at home to further beat our meat! Thank God for two things: One, in those days we never had to converse at home in English. Two, today when we do converse a lot more in English — we are vegetarians!

Reference reading for those with an academic interest in this:
Double entendre

Semiotics, words & half-life


Remember your school-time nuclear physics?

A quick refresher here and here.

Point being:
Radioactive materials take practically forever to lose their radioactivity.

Now think of tonnes and tonnes of nuclear weapons stockpiled by all countries of the world. Even if tomorrow they decide to 'dump' these nuclear weapons, imagine how much time it will take for these tonnes and tonnes to become 'safe'.

Here is a simple challenge:

Think of a way to communicate this "Danger: This site is radioactive" in such a manner that a.) it stands for 24,000 years* and b.) people, 24,000 years later, can still understand it.

Don't waste your time thinking of phrases / icons / signboards for this. None of what you could think of is good enough!

Remember, that we have not been able to understand hieroglyphics even after 5000-8000years. The most popular language in the world, Mandarin, is understood by only around 800-900 million people out of the 6 billion people. English is understood by some 600-700 million people. (These figures may not be accurate, but well within range to make a point!)

I faced this question for the first time, in one of the workshops by my good friend Niyam Bhushan two years back. Niyam sent an email recently:

…here is my pet-puzzle that I've wondered about since more than eight years. It remains unsolved. For those of you who have ever attended my typography workshops, it may be familiar.


Please take a look at it, discuss and share among yourselves and your friends.

"The arrow of education points towards illiteracy." – osho

* You may need to register at the LA Times website for this, but it's a quick, one-time registration, that's worth it.

An excerpt from the LA Times article:

As chief scientist of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Nelson oversees a cavernous salt mine that is the first geological lockbox for the "fiendishly toxic" detritus of nuclear weapons production: chemical sludge, lab gear and filters laced with tons of radioactive plutonium.

Nearly half a mile underground, workers push waste drums into crystalline labyrinths that seem as remote as the moon. A faint salty haze glows in powdery beams from miners' headlamps and settles on the lips like a desert kiss. Computer projections predict that within 1,000 years the ceilings and walls will collapse in a crushing embrace that seals the plutonium in place.

But plutonium remains deadly for 250 times that long — an unsettling reminder that some of today's hazards will outlast the civilizations that created them. The "forever problem," unique to the modern technological age, has made crafting the user manual for this toxic tomb the final daunting task in an already monumental project. The result is a gargantuan system that borrows elements equally from Stonehenge and "Star Trek." [Read more]

A thoroughly humbling thought, that not only puts in perspective the madness of nuclear weaponry, but also the helplessness and inadequacy of all means of communication known to us…

And come to think of it, people argue that humans are a more evolved species because of language. Animals, by the way, may sense the danger 24,000 years later too.


* Why this figure of 24,000 years?
That's apparently the time it will take for the current dump to decay. And this is just a decimal (and dismal!) percentage of the total existing nuclear stockpile worldwide.

Pardesi in Chennai

Humour, Language

I recall an absolutely trivial incident — in fact it is not even an incident per se, just a snapshot that had lodged in the recesses of my mind only to be stumbled upon yet again by yet another trivial incident that happened recently.

Many years ago, a cousin of mine who had come down from Srinagar, asked my grandmother, if he were a 'khanabadosh'. To which my granny said something, that translated from Kashmiri, would read like this: "God forbid! No way my child".

Though I knew my cousin had said that only because we (my cousin and I) liked the histrionic sound of the word — I thought my granny's response was against the backdrop of the fact that my cousin had come to Delhi escaping militancy in Kashmir, and calling himself a 'khanabadosh' was like pitying himself. And my granny was quick to dispel that.

Living in Chennai for the last one year, I have faced challenges of communication, that in most cases have self-resolved. However, a few days ago I was in the canteen and the guy behind the counter was fixing a sandwich which wasn't exactly as per my specifications. Jammy, pointed this out, to which I said, "This must be for some other pardesi (me being the first)."

Jammy said, "Thank God! There isn't anyone round!"


"Pardesi, is not something people in Chennai would like to be called."

Apparently, 'pardesi' in Tamil means a nomad.

I tried to rationalize that there is a relation between the words nomad and foreigner. A nomad would necessarily be a foreigner, but a foreigner need not necessarily be a nomad. But I was given a counter-rationale that pardesi in Tamil had connotations closer to 'vagabond', and therefore undesirable.

Thinking about this, I was reminded of the song from the film Henna:

Maein hoon ik khanabadosh, Saara jag mera watan.
Pyaar hi meri zubaan, Pyaar hi mera chalan.

This was another way of looking at things. The Urdu 'khanabadosh', the English nomads, the Tamil 'pardesi' revelling in this status of theirs — where they are unfrettered, and the the whole world is their country!

Just a matter of perceptions, I guess.

For example after seeing Paheli (the Amol Palekar film with Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee; India's nomination to the Oscars), one could see a ghost in every creature, or an opportunity.

Perceptions, I tell you. Or is it 'perspectives'? Naah, I am too tired to get into that right now!


Henceforth I shall have to be careful about the kind of Hindi songs I sing in Chennai, lest I upset someone through the lyrics of the songs!

In the mood for a quick check?

"Pardesi, pardesi jaana nahin…" :: Not on
"Tum toh thehre pardesi, saath kya nibhaaoge…" :: On
"Pardesiyon se na ankhiyaan ladaana…" :: Very On
"Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya…" :: Not on
"Pardesiya, yeh sach hai piya, sab kehtein haien…" :: Not on

Please point out other pardesi songs and help me, and help Chennai.

But what do I do about upsetting someone through my singing talent?