Writing Humor

When online translators go horribly (and hilariously) wrong

Online translators can come in handy when you need to translate something on the fly. Automatic or machine translation is a quick and cheap alternative to time-consuming manual translation with a bilingual dictionary or a professional translation service. Automatic translators work on a word-by-word basis, which can be useful when you need to get the gist. But they run into problems when there is more than one possible translation for a word, since they obviously cannot ‘understand’ any context that may be crucial to choosing the right one. In these cases, the online translator gives the most common translation (usually the literal meaning of the word), which may or may not make any sense.

Another pitfall is grammatical accuracy. When translating between languages with different ways of structuring sentences, the word-by-word process may simply produce ungrammatical strings of words. These kinds of online translator fails can be found all over the Internet where people poke fun at just how wrong automatic translation can go.

One truly epic fail was the automatic translation from Italian to English of the biographies of all the ministers in the Italian government that appeared on the official website. At the time, the episode was reported by a major Italian newspaper, which also gleefully pointed out the ironic contrast with that government’s promise to boost the “three I’s” in education: Inglese, Internet e Impresa (English, Internet, Enterprise). Here are some of the best bloopers:

• The Italian “Nato a” at the beginning of each bio was mysteriously transformed into “Been born in”, rather than simply “Born in”. Unfortunately, all the ministers’ bios began in the same totally ungrammatical way.

• “Coniugato e con due figli” became “Conjugated and it has two daughters”. In addition to its grammatical meaning, “coniugato” also means “married” in Italian. The poor man was also reduced to an “it” rather than a “he”. Both of these fails were repeated in the ministers’ bios, men and women alike.

• “Ministro dell’Interno” (Minister of the Interior) became “Minister of the Inside”.

• “Ministro dell’Ambiente” (Minister of the Environment) became “Minister of the Atmosphere”.

• “Il portavoce del Presidente” (spokesperson for the President) became “the megaphone of the President”.

• One minister graduated from “Mouthfuls University”. The university in question is Università Bocconi, founded by Ferdinando Bocconi and one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Italy. The word “boccone” in Italian means “mouthful”. “Bocconi” is the plural form, so the automatic translator actually did get that right!

• The Minister of Education found herself with a new first name when “Letizia” was translated into “Joy”.

• A minister was regrettably described as having once been an “Ordinary University Professor”. In the Italian higher education system, the highest level of professorship is “Professore Ordinario”, corresponding to Full Professor.

• As a young man, a minister was a member of the political activist group called “Fronte della Gioventù”, which became the “Forehead of Youth”, rather than the Youth Front. “Fronte” also means “forehead” in Italian.

• The political party “Lega Nord” of one minister became the “Alloy North”, rather than the Northern League.

• A minister’s illustrious mentor’s first and last names were translated from “Augusto Del Noce” to “August Of The Nut” (note the carefully maintained capitalization). “Noce” does, in fact, mean “nut”, so a perfectly logical choice in the ‘mind’ of the automatic translator, even at the risk of offending Mr. Del Noce’s mother.

• The city and province of birth of one minister, Cassano Magnago (VA), where VA is the official abbreviation for the province of Varese, became Cassano Magnago (GOES). After all, “va” is the third person singular form of the irregular Italian verb “andare”, so why not translate that too into its English counterpart “goes”? (in all caps, of course!)

Once the blunder was discovered, the government quickly removed the embarrassing translations and got them done properly. The government also replied to the newspaper that the bios were trial runs with an automatic translator and not intended for publication, and that ‘someone’ had gotten into the system and made them public.

If English isn’t your first language, it’s a great idea to stay away from free online translation software. It still has a long way to go. Even if you use a professional translation service, it’s also a great idea to get a second pair of eyes on your translated copy to make sure your translator did a good job. We offer ESL (English as a second language) editing services here at Edit911, and guarantee your copy will read like a native English speaker when we’re done. Too bad the Italian government didn’t hire us 🙂

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Mastering the Complex Language of Meme Speak

Over the past few years, internet users have experienced a growing phenomenon called MEMES. Even if you’ve been living under a rock and you’ve never heard of a “meme” (pronounced meem), you’ve probably seen one and just didn’t know that’s what the kids are calling them. It’s given rise to a brand new language — “Memespeak” or “LOLspeak” — the use of intentional misspelling to covey humorous improper pronunciation of the content.

For instance, the phrase “Oh my God” might instead be spelled “Ermahgerd” on a meme, because when sounded out, it sounds much funnier than saying it the normal way, almost like you’re saying it with food in your mouth. This type of meme speak (yes, there are different types) was inspired by Cartman’s voice on the TV show South Park. Arguably the first meme to use this type of meme speak was the “Ermahgerd” girl, who was recently interviewed by Vanity Fair about what it was like to be the face one of the most famous internet memes of our time.

memespeak writing

If you’re still lost, here’s a translation: Gersberms = “Goosebumps”, “Mah” = My, “Fravrit” = Favorite, “Berks” = Books.

When saying “Yes” in memespeak, one can either say “Yis” or “Yas”. Added letters convey more excitement or satisfaction, illustrated beautifully by this meme of an owl being stroked by a human being:

memespeak yis owl

“Yisss” = I strongly approve of this.

There are also sub-languages within meme speak, such as “LOLcat” and “doge”.

meme speak lolspeak writing book editing

There are plenty of memes, including LOLcat memes, that don’t alter the English language. When English is used properly in these memes, it’s meant to denote that the speaker is of superior intelligence and intellect than average. Take for instance Grumpy Cat, who speaks in perfect English, but in the short, catch-phraseology of meme speak.

Doge is particularly interesting. Basically, seemingly random words are stuck on a photo, almost like thought bubbles, to convey speech or thoughts in the apparent incongruent, spastic way that dogs think (like the dog in Pixar’s “UP”).

lolspeak meme speak doge editing service

Where and when did all of this start, you ask? It all began with the infamous “I can has cheezburger?” meme. I Can Has Cheezburger? is the name of a weblog-format website featuring videos (usually involving animals) and image macros. It was created in 2007 by Eric Nakagawa (Cheezburger), a blogger from Hawaii, and his friend Kari Unebasami (Tofuburger). The website is one of the most popular internet sites of its kind. It received as many as 1,500,000 hits per day at its peak in May 2007. ICHC was instrumental in bringing animal-based image macros and lolspeak into mainstream usage and making internet memes profitable.

book proofreading humor

ICHC was created on January 11, 2007, when Nakagawa posted an image from Something Awful of a smiling British Shorthair, known as Happycat, with a caption of the cat asking, “I can has cheezburger?” in a style popularized by 4chan (a huge online message board). It is from this image that the site derives its name. After posting similar images, Nakagawa then converted the site to a monetized blog.

Reference articles (because this is serious stuff):
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22 Movies About Writers

Next time you set out to write the next Hollywood blockbuster and you don’t know where to begin – don’t forget that dozens of critically acclaimed films have been written about writers! While it may be too obvious a choice for some, don’t forget the incredible diversity and creativity in this collection of films – from The Shining to Adaptation, there is some seriously juicy material to be discovered when you dive inward to your writing experiences for writing inspiration! Fun side note: Meryl Streep does a lot of films about authors.


movies about writers

Julie & Julia

Frustrated with a soul-killing job, New Yorker Julie Powell (Amy Adams) embarks on a daring project: she vows to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Childs’ landmark cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Intertwined with Julie’s story is the true tale of how Julia Child (Meryl Streep) herself conquered French cuisine with passion, fearlessness, and plenty of butter.


author stories

Saving Mr. Banks

Named after the father in author P.L. Travers’ story “Mary Poppins”, Saving Mr. Banks depicts the author’s fortnight-long meetings during 1961 in Los Angeles, as she is persuaded by Disney in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels.


writer movies proofreader


A few days after being rescued and sheltered from a car crash caused by a blizzard, by a nurse who claims to be his number one fan, a well-known author begins suspecting the mental health of his savior.

The Hours

The story of how the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” affects three generations of women, all of whom, in one way or another, have had to deal with suicide in their lives.


In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

Finding Neverland

The story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.


Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. Based on the British romance novel by Ian McEwan.


C.S. Lewis, a world-renowned Christian theologian, writer and professor, leads a passionless life until he meets a spirited poet from the U.S.

Sophie’s Choice

Sophie is the survivor of Nazi concentration camps, who has found a reason to live in Nathan, a sparkling if unsteady American Jew obsessed with the Holocaust. They befriend Stingo, the movie’s narrator, a young American writer new to New York City. But the happiness of Sophie and Nathan is endangered by her ghosts and his obsessions.


A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean for the screen.

Shakespeare In Love

A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

The Libertine

The story of John Wilmot, a.k.a. the Earl of Rochester, a 17th century poet who famously drank and debauched his way to an early grave, only to earn posthumous critical acclaim for his life’s work.

Becoming Jane

A biographical portrait of a pre-fame Jane Austen and her romance with a young Irishman.

Miss Potter

The story of Beatrix Potter, the author of the beloved and best-selling children’s book, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, and her struggle for love, happiness and success.

Author! Author!

While facing the stress of his play being produced on Broadway, a playwright deals with having to raise his son, his stepdaughters, and his stepsons.


At the behest of an old and dear friend, playwright Lillian Hellman undertakes a dangerous mission to smuggle funds into Nazi Germany.

Finding Forrester

A young writing prodigy finds a mentor in a reclusive author.

The Shining

Jack Torrance, a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. His young son possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Some time after settling in, the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, and Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence and descends into madness.


Inspired by the life and work of the Marquis de Sade, Quills re-imagines the last years of the Marquis’ incarceration in the insane asylum at Charenton.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.

8 ½

Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director, is suffering from “director’s block”. Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality.


Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.

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