Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bilbo Baggins Principle

I’m telling you, that Shooting Parrots is a veritable treasure trove of blogging ideas.

He went and used Google Translate to translate a random English sentence (“So you see, not only is this useful for visitors, but it’s educational for me.”) into Latin (Videtis igitur non solum utile sagittis sed rutrum quis enim.) and then applied Google Translate to the translation and re-translated the translation back into English. Here’s what that little exercise produced:

“Do you see arrows, but more useful, therefore, not only for who.”

I think you will agree with me that the concept may still need a little work.

So I thought I might have a little fun by subjecting some well-known proverbs and phrases to the same process.

Here goes:

1. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. -> Equum agere potest facere aquam non bibant. -> He can make a horse, intending to do nor drink water.

2. A rolling stone gathers no moss. -> A volubilem lapidem congregat musco. -> A rolling stone gathers moss.

3. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. -> Pomum a die tenet medicus a. -> An apple a day keeps the doctor.

4. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. -> In urbe, non faciunt Romani. -> In the city, they do not do the Romans.

5. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-between. -> PREMO positiuo, tollere non, venenatis et Donec In nec medium. -> FEEL THE PINCH the positive, not take away, not until the middle of the, poisonous.

6. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. -> Cinis cinerem, pulvis ad pulverem. -> Ashes, ashes, dust to the dust.

7. When the cat’s away, the mice will play. -> Cum cattus suus, consectetur erit ludere. -> With his cat, I will be playing.

8. If you sit on the table, you’ll get married before you're able. -> Si idcirco sedetis super mensam es tu poteris uxorem ante. -> If you sit there you are, you will be able to set upon the table before the wife.

9. In a cavern, by a canyon, excavating for a mine, lived a miner, forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine. -> In antro, per canyon, excavating enim a mea, vixit a METALLICUS, quadraginta niner, et eius filia Clementine. -> In the cave, a canyon, excavating for a mine, he lived from METAL, the Nina, and his daughter Clementine.

#7 looks a little phony to me. I thought the Latin word for cat was felix, feline. Something is rotten in the Google Translate state of Denmark.

#8 is something my mother used to say to me. It proved to be untrue. I married at 22 and today I’m still married to the same woman 49 years later.

#9 is almost perfect, except it left out the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

And the moral of this post, kiddies, should be obvious. I call it the Bilbo Baggins Principle:

There and back again isn’t always as easy as it may appear.

In conclusion, may I just say that in the city, although they do not do the Romans, with his cat, I will be playing.


  1. Dear Mr Brague,
    As you are fascinated by the quirks of language, I think you might find some idle pleasure in exploring this website:-
    Best wishes,
    Y. Pudding esquire

  2. Thank you, Shooting Parrots and Yorkshire Pudding, for those sites. The Japanese seem particularly adept at mangling the English language.

    Special message to Yorkshire Pudding: La calúmnia no està permès al meu blog. Canvieu les seves maneres, si us plau.

  3. This is so interesting and this is why I love reading books written in their own language because so much is lost in the translation:)