The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

June 2005 Archive

June 01, 2005

Following up on yesterday's translation howler and the ensuing discussion whether a translator can grasp the meaning of a word from the context or not, I'd like to present you an excerpt from a story and invite you to produce a translation yourself. In this case you should be able to do it completely without a context, because nothing that you read in the following section is referred to or referring to anything else in the story.

It's still difficult though, if for entirely different reasons, and if the translators for a dubbed TV series made a mistake with this one, I suppose I'd be more lenient than with the hippies' "trip" that ended up as a "journey" rather than, well, a "trip".

Anyway, first person who sends me a email with the correct translation of the following excerpt in German or French (German preferred!) gets a prize:

'What inseparables we were - you and me and old Carter'. It was obvious that his memory held a different impression from mine.
'What's happened to Carter?'
'He went into Cables and died.'
I said, 'When I get back from Malacca...' and went thoughtfully out.

Translations that can be found on the Internet will be ignored. Don't forget to include your postal address so that I can send you the prize.

Posted by Horst at 12:34 PM | TrackBack (0)

June 02, 2005

  • Berlin is a building contractor's wet dream.
  • Currywurst is seriously overrated.
  • At least from the outside there is next to no discernible difference between western and ex-GDR council housing estates from the 1970s.
  • There are significantly fewer döner kebab places than you'd expect. Fewer than in Vienna actually.
  • The buildings on Potsdamer Platz are nothing more than reflections of the egoes of the corporations that had them built.
  • There are more jars on the 6th floor of the KaDeWe than on the entire planet Zork.
  • In Berlin, football fans sing. All of them, all the time.
  • There are places with frightening names such as The bizarre world of Dr Mueller.
  • There are also truly bizarre things, which I won't talk about here.
Posted by Horst at 11:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2005

The translation quiz will continue until 8:00am CET tomorrow, so if you want to win the prize, send in your translations soon.

The correct translation and the winner (or the approximate winner, since no 100% correct translation has been submitted yet) will be announced tomorrow.

Posted by Horst at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2005

There is always more than one correct translation for any given text. Here is one version that is more or less correct:

"Wie unzertrennlich wir waren - du und ich und Carter". Es war offensichtlich, dass seine Erinnerungen sich von meinen unterschieden.
"Was ist mit Carter passiert?"
"Er ist zu Cable & Wireless gegangen und gestorben."
Ich sagte: "Wenn ich aus Malakka zurückkomme..." und ging nachdenklich hinaus.

The excerpt is from a short story called "The Revenge" by Graham Greene. A couple of people who sent in translations found that out. What they did not find out, or chose to ignore, is that the story is set in 1951, which is significant in that the dialogue contains a number of elements from informal speech that would be used differently, or not at all, today.

Most frequent mistakes:

  • "old Carter" - Carter isn't any older than the two speakers; "old" is merely a way of referring to a good friend. It is therefore not translated into German at all.
  • "Cables" - is a short, informal way of referring to the company Cable & Wireless, like today people might use "BT" instead of "British Telecom" (C&W still exists by the way, although they're more into Internet connections than telephones these days). The capital C should have given this away as a proper name and thus as the name of some company, but most people chose to ignore this. Even using "Cables" as in the original would be more correct than "er geriet in ein Starkstromkabel und starb".
  • "Malacca" - can be a peninsula or a city. As the context is missing it's not clear from the excerpt alone that the city is meant, so it's "aus Malakka" rather than "von Malakka", but in German still both are spelt with -kk-.
  • "thoughtfully" - no, it's not anything like "gedankenverloren" or "in Gedanken versunken". A plain "nachdenklich" is quite sufficient.

Read pp. 173 ff. of Dieter Zimmer's RedensArten to find out what happened when Die Zeit did a translation competition based on the short story. 620 people sent in translations; the results are anything between hilarious and frightening.

Posted by Horst at 10:26 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2005

Following last Friday's poetry open mic, I am currently working on a poem entitled "Poetry Lesson".

Ah, I guess I shouldn't complain. After all, I sold three copies of my book.

Posted by Horst at 11:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2005

The obvious consequence of yesterday's announcement that Apple will migrate its platform to Intel processors over the next two years has one major consequence as far as I'm concerned:

The dual-processor G5 that I had planned to buy next year will not be bought next year, because I don't want to find myself at a technological dead end a year later. And the planned iBook G4 suddenly looks a lot less necessary than it did only two days ago.

I've gone through three processor/OS architecture changes, and each involved lengthy periods of working with tediously slow emulation layers and forced software upgrades that solely happened to stay compatible, NOT for the (usually totally unnecessary) new features. Announcing another architecture change just when it looked that things would finally be stable for the foreseeable future is putting a very serious strain on my relationship with Apple.

If I weren't such a design freak and bought Apple computers mostly because the competition's hardware and OSs are so butt ugly, I swear that this would be the time to defect to Linux.

Posted by Horst at 05:05 PM | Comments (1)

June 08, 2005

23 hours, 47 minutes and counting. Downloading and installing Service Pack 2 alone has taken something like 16 hours so far.

Posted by Horst at 08:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Legally. Unbelievable. Thanks to the BBC. [link via SWR]

Posted by Horst at 03:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

On having a look at the Steve Jobs keynote about Apple's migration to Intel processors, I may revise yesterday's post. If I'm not under the influence of Steve's famous Reality Distortion Field and what he says is true and the Universal Binary format (Mac OS X apps running on both PPC and Intel CPUs) is grabbing hold, then there should be no problem at all of current PPC Macs becoming obsolete any sooner than the first non-beige G3 Macs, and that was something like 7 years ago. In fact the major problem would be the required emulation layer for the new Intel Macs, which means that it may actually be a better idea to buy a PPC Mac now than wait for the Intel Macs and then be confronted with their teething problems.

Posted by Horst at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 09, 2005

Did I already mention that iDisk syncing in Mac OS X 10.4 is just one giant bug heap? Well, in case I didn't: it's one giant bug heap. I have to rebuild my local iDisk almost every other day because synchronisation seems to go on forever, never actually syncs anything, but if you cancel it, it crashes the Finder. Not to forget that it doesn't delete files that you want deleted — you delete them locally, but they keep coming back from DotMac over and over again. Can anybody fix this, please?

Posted by Horst at 08:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

There are those extremely rare days when the square in front of the Vienna city hall is just empty. No market, no ice rink, no event, no nothing. Just empty. And since you're no longer used to it being empty, it seems even emptier on those days.

It's odd that on those days it doesn't immediately fill up with tourists, because those rare days are the only occasion when you can actually take a decent picture of the city hall without some stage, giant wooden hut or some other contraption blocking your view.

Damn, I should have brought my camera and posted a picture here.

Posted by Horst at 08:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 13, 2005

I was ear witness to a traffic accident this morning while I was waiting for my tram. There was a very loud thud, and it was obvious that yet another accident had happened at this very accident-prone crossroads (it's accident-prone mostly because people are ignoring the traffic signs and/or are talking on their mobile phones while driving).

Nobody was hurt seriously, but the final positions of the two cars involved in the accident was fairly strange: since I hadn't seen the accident, it was impossible for me to say how they had collided. The final position was thus, with the damage indicated in orange:


Maybe it helps if I indicate the traffic signs, but maybe it doesn't, because at this crossroads everybody ignores them anyway:


Anyway, I'm puzzled. What's your guess?

Posted by Horst at 10:06 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (2)

June 19, 2005

I am currently experiencing something of a dry spell, inspiration-wise. Please accept my profound apologies for my inability to entertain you.

Posted by Horst at 04:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 21, 2005

When told that the requested book is not available immediately, but only after a two-hour wait, one in three people will rather not use the book at all rather than wait.

When told that a book cannot be borrowed, only read in the library, one in four people will not read it at all rather than read it in the library.

When told that a book cannot be copied for conservatory reasons, two out of three people will not use the book at all rather than just read it and take notes.

When told that a book must be ordered from the online catalogue rather than via the index cards and paper order forms, one in three people aged 50+ will not use it at all rather than order it this way.

When told that a book must be searched in the index card catalogue and ordered with a paper order form rather than online, two out of three people aged 20 and less will not use it at all rather than order it this way.

Posted by Horst at 06:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2005

A number of women I know have this compulsive thing that makes them buy new shoes at an incredible rate. A number of men I know have this compulsive thing that makes them clean their shoes really thoroughly, for hours almost. Interestingly, I have neither, which says a few not-too-favourable things about the number and general appearance of my shoes.

I read the Peases' book to find out just where women's obsession with shoes comes from, but either it's not in there, or it's a ridiculously small paragraph, because I didn't find it and so the whole thing still remains a mystery.

As for men's obsession with shoe polish, my first guess was it's due to the intoxicating chemical fumes that emanate from it. My other guess was it could be connected to a trauma during national service in the army, but these days next to no-one does their service in the army any longer, so that can't be it.

I once tried to piece together all the time that I spent during my army service doing nothing but cleaning my boots. I was unable to arrive at a number that seemed to be convincing; it must have been several weeks, I suppose. But then I guess that considering the amount of strain and dirt exerted on the average pair of army boots the only way to keep them in good condition is to feed them large amounts of shoe polish.

Which in turn suggests that men may have an obsession with shoe polish because they want to keep their shoes in good condition for as long as possible. And that might just be because contrary to women, they really hate buying new shoes. Which is something that I can totally identify with.

Posted by Horst at 03:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

June 23, 2005

and at the moment I don't know if I'm awake or still sleeping. It doesn't feel like either. It feels too unreal to be either, and I'm just too disoriented to tell what's what. If you can read this and are not part of my imagination, then I'm probably awake. Unless I'm just imagining that you are not part of my imagination. In which case I miss you.

Posted by Horst at 10:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

suurele sötrale

If you know enough Estonian to decipher the name of this chocolate, I'd appreciate it if you let me know.

Posted by Horst at 11:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2005

I'm looking for one or two people who would like to participate in a fiction blog project. Basically, it's a weblog that pretends to be the collected e-mail correspondence of four people who were sent on an as yet unknown mission to three cities. The first few messages can be found here:

If you are interested and want to participate, please bear in mind that you are expected to write at least three short blog entries per week for the next couple of months (in English).

If you are still interested, please send me an e-mail with a list of 3 names which character you'd like to be (Bell, Cam, Vac or an as yet undisclosed 5th character; in order of preference).

Update: One slot has been filled. This means that only the 5th, so far undisclosed character is still available. Depending on how the story develops, this character may not appear at all for another month or so. Still, if you're interested, feel free to write now, but don't forget about it until your turn comes.

Update: Slots full.

Posted by Horst at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

There are barn doors and there are revolving doors, doors in the rudders of big ships, and there are revolving doors. There are doors that open by themselves, there are sliding doors, and there are secret doors. There are doors that lock and doors that don't. There are doors that let you in and out, but never open, and there are trapdoors that you can't come back from.

In this dream that I had I was with this woman whom I really really liked, even though for some reason whenever I looked at her, parts of her seemed to be blurry or obscured. I didn't mind though, because what I saw seemed nice enough, and, let's admit it, it's not as if any man could ever claim that the woman he's with doesn't seem blurry or obscured to him in some way.

Then she asked me how I felt, and I didn't feel good, so I told her. Unfortunately, she didn't feel good either, and that's how the trouble started.

There are doors that you open, and doors that you close. Some of them you shouldn't have opened, and some of them you shouldn't have closed, and some you can open and close without regret, but either way you can tell only afterwards. There are revolving doors that open and close all the time, and you have to be careful when to get in and when to get out. The most complex variety however are doors that are operated by two people at the same time, because for each of them and for every casual onlooker they seem to be opening and closing totally at random and/or erratically, when in fact they are not.

Posted by Horst at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2005

A while ago, one of the typical things to happen in a coffeehouse in Vienna was that you would sit next to a couple of German tourists who would be ordering a "Kännchen Kaffe mit Sahne" (instead of a "Kaffee mit Schlag") and then complain that it's too strong.

These days, one of the typical things to happen in a coffeehouse in Vienna can be that a waiter with a strong German accent will bring you a "Kaffe mit Sahne" (instead of a "Kaffee mit Schlag"), and you will complain that it's too weak.

For some reason, waiters and art historians in Vienna are currently being replaced by Germans at an incredible rate. No, I don't see the connection. And I also don't understand why the coffee in Berlin seems to taste stronger.

Posted by Horst at 01:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

June 28, 2005

It seems that Apple Mail has some built-in anti-phishing mechanism that I noticed only today after receiving a bogus "Paypal" mail:

anti-phish in Apple Mail


Posted by Horst at 12:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


With unlikely characters like Bob the Builder and Spongebob populating toy shops and children's rooms everywhere, can we expect more children to be named Robert in the next few years? And will their choice of jobs (if the concept still exists when they are grown up) be in any way determined by their childhood heroes?

Posted by Horst at 03:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 29, 2005

I was too lazy to write this in English, so everything I am willing to disclose about my kitchen secrets (as requested by Ms pinkNgreen) is answered in German over at The Aardvark Cooks.

After the first week, my new fiction blog Messages from the lost continent, a collaboration with five other people, is progressing better than I had expected -- the story has really taken off remarkably well. If the main page confuses you, you may find it helpful to read the chronological archive so that you get the full story from the beginning.

Posted by Horst at 11:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

June 30, 2005

Since I walked away
I haven't spent a single minute
not thinking

Since you walked
I haven't spent a single minute

Doing things that don't
matter, while
trying to figure out if your hands were
metaphorically stretched out

(mine were
ready to touch
but I didn't because
it wasn't a good

or not, just

I never gave you
anything but a silly silly
flower; it seems a bit
cheap now, compared with
the hair clip you gave me—

At least you said
good luck take care
at least you said that
at least that's
what you said

Posted by Horst at 04:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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Most of the stuff on this page is fiction. Everything else is my private opinion. Please read the disclaimer.

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