Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lost In Translation

Are We Rome? Tu Betchus!
Published: October 11, 2008

Running out of gimmicks, Maureen Dowd has stumbled onto a new one. Riffing on comparisons between the United States and the fall of the Roman Empire, she decides to translate her standard generic column into Lipstick-On-A-Pig-Latin. Continuing her proud tradition of out-sourcing her work whenever possible, she enlisted a real history professor, who is clearly unconcerned with his tenure hopes, to do the heavy lifting.

I enlisted Gary D. Farney, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, to translate (loosely and creatively) from English to Latin “The Battle of Gall,” my take below on why the hyperventilating Republicans are not veni, vidi, vici-ing.
Dr. Farney teaches Ancient Greek and Roman History and according to Rate-My-Professor he is hard but fair with a strong resemblance to Radar O'Reilly.

Let's see if we can identify the distinguishing features of Dowd column even when quasi-translated to a dead language.

Punny Titles
Bellum Gallium
Her column within a column translates to "The Gallic Wars" which is the title of Julius Caesar's famous book or "The Battle of Gall" which puns on the meaning of gall as "bitterness of feeling; rancor." The column is about the bitter tactics that the Republicans are resorting to in the homestretch of the campaign. "Gall" is one of Dowd's favorite words, having called a column last year "Gift of Gall."

Alliteration Alerts™
Manes Julii Caesaris paucis diebus aderant — “O, most bloody sight!” — cum Ioannes McCainus, mavericus et veteranus captivusque Belli Francoindosinini, et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam causa oratorii, pillorant ut demagogi veri, Africanum-Americanum senatorem Terrae Lincolni, ad Republicanas rallias.
Sentences with silly internal rhyme:
Vix quisque audivit nomen “Palinae” ante lunibus paucis. Surgivit ex suo tanning bed ad silvas in Terram Eskimorum, rogans quis sit traitorosus, ominosus, scurrilosus, periculosus amator LXs terroris criminalisque Chicagoani? Tu betchus.
Lindsay Lohan movie reference:
Vilmingtoni, in Ohionem, McCain’s Mean Girl (Ferox Puella) defendit se gladiatricem politicam esse: “Pauci dicant, O Jupiter, te negativam esse. Non, negativa non sum, sed verissima.”
Vicious personal nick-names:
Maverici, ut capiunt auxilium de friga-domina, hench-femina, Cynthia McCaina Birrabaronessa...
I'm pretty sure Maureen is calling Cindy McCain an "ice-queen henchwoman Beer Baroness." For a far better translation of the entire column, check out the Ablative Absolute blog.

Next week: Dowd expands on the Shakespearean tragedy aspect of McCain's descent into madness and gets the NYU Elizabethian Literature professor to rewrite her column in iambic pentameter.


David said...

very funny. check out for more a great article on john mccain

agnes said...

What happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages? The authors of the Systran language translation software probably never intended this application of their program. As of September 2007, translation software is almost good enough to turn grammatically correct, slang-free text from one language into grammatically incorrect, barely readable approximations in another.



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JP Farrell & Associates, Inc. said...

With "Tu Betchus" Dowd showed some classical knee to those seduced but mystified by her Siren's song. Like a sculptress tapping the finishing strokes to the beckoning finger of a marble Adonis with the time-stressed chisel of her master teacher, so does Dowd mark her place among the great ones. Her use of the classical forms is deliberately effortless; so too her fleeting references to myths all but forgotten.

She crafts political commentary with poetry, honoring her forebears as much by technique as by allusion.