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grapes; for the worms shall eat them

Open up Google Translate, English to Latin. Type in worms:

Normal enough so far. But then translate back:

You read that right! If you use Google Translate to translate worms into Latin, and then go back to English, you get grapes;. With the semicolon! But this is, like, not even the weirdest part! It's a wild ride. Translate back to Latin again:

And to English:

"grapes; for the worms shall eat them" –Google Translate, in its infinite wisdom

Let's just meditate on that for a second.


According to Google Translate, worms, grapes;, and grapes; for the worms shall eat them are all synonyms! It took a single word and returned a phrase! It went from worms to grapes! (Malinda would be proud.)


But again, it gets weirder. So much weirder. A moth doth Moses wroth? Mayhaps? It's a wild journey. Let's do this!

Without further ado, let's keep continue translating back and forth!

It appears to be growing in length.

By the way, this isn't the same thing that I saw when I did this originally a few weeks ago; there is some reason to suspect that Google Translate may here be slightly dynamic, so if you get something different, that's not necessarily cause for alarm. However, I've never seen anyone get any different for the first few iterations. Of course, it shouldn't really do that, but maybe small updates are being continuously made to the code, which changes this sort of thing. I don't know.

"...the son of man who is a worm" –Google Translate, in its infinite wisdom
"...For Jehovah is spoiling them doth a moth..." –Google Translate, in its infinite wisdom

Okay, so the Jehovah line has now become For the Lord has depopulated the contrary to them, is a moth, and then he shall bear his iniquity. Also, the grapes have been officially lost! All previous translations contained the word grapes somewhere, but not in this one.

The Moses point!

By the way, you should really try this yourself. Nothing matches the humor of seeing it happen in your own Google Translate on your own browser, rather than trusting my screenshots are accurate.

We now have Moab. The living Lord of slaves. He shall bare his iniquity. The word wroth! And overall, just a massive chunk of text with questionable sentence structure.

"shall be wasted with worms may have eaten, even with a sore and full of worms, and have robbed him, that Moab is laid waste; they are, which is of the will, when he was very angry, and his anger was kindled, and he was full of worms, an it putrefied, and that is spoiled; because it shall be wasted with worms; On the contrary, it is extinguished, By the living Lord of slaves had previously with having laid waste, because it shall be wasted with worms, he shall be wasted with worms, then he shall bear his iniquity; be full of worms, and become foul: and Moses was wroth was too much, and the sun of man who is a worm and not" –Google Translate, in its infinite wisdom

From here we'll start to see some shrinkage, though:

And then, with little warning, the text just drops back to sentence size:

And here, after many iterations back and forth (around twenty, by my count), the text has finally stabilized.

"because it shall be wasted with worms;" –Google Translate, in its infinite wisdom

On a very short piece of text, by the way! It seemed on the cusp of stabilization at many points in the middle, the text changing very little.


Variations

It is worth noting that this sequence is fragile to arrive at. What if, instead of worms, we began with the singular worm?

Well, it doesn't return worm, but it still stabilizes fairly quickly. And there's no reference to grapes. Speaking of, what if we start with grapes, bereft of semicolon?

Huh. That's much less interesting.


While typing in worms, I noticed something interesting after just the w:

As well as if you try translating the w from Latin to English:

grapes; for the worms shall eat them is really a whole iceberg.


How Did Google Translate Screw Up This Badly?

You'd think Google Translate would be good at Latin. After all, it is a fossilized language, so it's not rapidly changing in meaning. However, there are a few factors: there aren't as many source texts for Latin, and it mainly appears to have been fed the Latin Bible. For instance, from where does grapes; for the worms shall eat them come? It turns out that it's a line from Deuteronomy:


“Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them."

"...grapes; for the worms shall eat them" –Deuteronomy 28:39

However, the rest of this passage seems totally unrelated to the translation. There is no mention of wasting with worms, no mention of Moses, no mention of moths. The verse continues:


"Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume."

"Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil..." –Deuteronomy 28:40, but not Google Translate

The Google Translate passage had no olive trees, no sons and daughters, no locusts! So it seems to be pulling from other portions of the Bible. From Job 25:6, "How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?" From Isaiah 50:9, "a moth doth eat them." And so on.


Google Translate Latin doesn't seem to be converging on a particular verse of the Bible, but instead proceeding to conceptualize all text as similar to its source material. There's another interesting example of this in a Stack Exchange post on the matter:

Changing the name of the subject from Abraham to Quintilian shouldn't change the sentence structure. Neither should changing the name of his wife from Keturah to Julia. Or his wife to a dog named Fido. That should keep the sentence structure the same. But it doesn't; instead, Google Translate rearranges the later sentences, confused by their relative non-biblicality.

Changing the name of the subject from Abraham to Quintilian shouldn't change the sentence structure...instead, Google Translate rearranges the later sentences, confused by their relative non-biblicality.

Another point that's often brought up is that Latin is a heavily inflected, or synthetic, language, with many noun declensions and verb conjugations, and these carry a lot of weight in meaning. By contrast, it's easier for computers to deal with isolating languages like English, where words are relatively fixed in inflections. (English isn't even considered "isolating," since it still inflects in some cases, like for plurals. It also has suffixes like -er. A truer example of an isolating language is Vietnamese.)


Kessinger Publishing

This straddles a bit further into "why are we doing this," but let's say we happen to type two Ws and then an absolute value sign:

You heard it here, folks: the Latin for WW | is Kessinger Publishing |.


So what does Kessinger Publishing do, you might ask? Well, Wikipedia refers to them as "an American print on demand publishing company located in Whitefish, Montana that specializes in rare, out of print books."


There's no chance one of those rare, out of print books is...the Latin Bible, is it?


Well...

I'm sorry, what does it say under "publisher"?

–beautifulthorns


Next: Updates on Google Translate and the California Recall

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