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It's well-known on this community that you can't trust any Latin translation from Google Translate. A comment about translating goatherd with Google Translate got me thinking, though. What is the most absurd or ridiculous translation you have seen from Google Translate for something in Latin?

If this question doesn't seem appropriate or useful let me know and I will delete it. I thought it might be a humorous but useful way to illustrate how much someone should not what they get from Google Translate for Latin.

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  • 2
    This might be better as a community Wiki q&a? There can't really be a right-and-wrong here.
    – cmw
    Mar 25 at 17:49
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    It's since been fixed, but a few years ago Google Translate said "Arma virumque cano" was "Chairman Meow."
    – jwodder
    Mar 25 at 22:23
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    @AndrewT. It seems some of the stranger results are precisely the result of Google Translate's openness to crowdsourcing … Mar 26 at 19:36
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    @AndrewT. This may sound overly pessimistic, but I think Google Translate is beyond repair when it comes to Latin. Unless they change how it works structurally, I would consider most efforts wasted. Perhaps we could fix the 100 most commonly asked phrases, but then it's a phrase list rather than a translator.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 27 at 0:03
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    @AndrewT. Why should Google, one of the most profitable companies on earth, rely on free labor from experts to help fix their broken products? Are they that really that awful of a company? Or are they just massively incompetent?
    – cmw
    Mar 27 at 1:37
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This one was mentioned in the linked question and appears to be still valid:

dolor sit amet > "carrots"

This translation is marked as verified by community and no other options are given.

These three Latin words are from the nonsensical lorem ipsum text often used for placeholders. The words are all valid Latin but don't make a sensible sentence. It's something close to "pain may be may love". Nothing to do with root vegetables!

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    @BenKovitz I guess someone entered it manually as a contribution from the community. It's sad if it's so open to trolling.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 25 at 22:45
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    Note that “dolor sit amet" are the third to fifth word of Lorem Ipsum. So maybe two placeholder texts were thought to be actual translations of each other (one being Lorem Ipsum, the other featuring carrots). On the other hand, this also makes this a likely troll target.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 26 at 11:07
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    PS: Larger parts of Lorem Ipsum (mind that parts of it are not proper Latin by any standard.) are translated to pretty much bogus: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt” → “Lorem ipsum carrots, enhanced undergraduate developer, but they do occaecat time and vitality”. Note how the English translation features a Latin word that does not appear in the Latin input.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 26 at 11:16
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    The phrase "dolor sit amet" (as well as much of "lorem ipsum", albeit in mangled form) is from a real Latin text, namely Cicero's De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum. The relevant passage is: "neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit, amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem." Mar 28 at 1:53
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    @Wrzlprmft you are probably right. Google Translate makes heavy use of machine translation, which in turn uses texts that are thought to be "equivalent". What would bother me more than trolls is that someone thought Lorem Ipsum was actual Latin and used it to train a machine translation.
    – CGritton
    Apr 2 at 14:00
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Audiatur et altera pars is translated "let the other party", reminiscent of "let them eat cake".

This is also verified by Google Translate contributors. Isn't there some Latin.SE API so Google Translate can tap into the knowledge here?

Edit: per user2357112 supports Monica's comment, the phrase means "let the other side be heard as well", which is a cornerstone of most legal systems.

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    I love the misreading, but I suspect that "party" here is a noun, i.e. "side." So it's just missing the verb ("be heard")
    – brianpck
    Mar 27 at 1:49
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Per tweet, it seems (and verified) Google Translate renders Latine as English.

https://translate.google.com/?sl=la&tl=en&text=Ego%20Latine%20loquor%20&op=translate

enter image description here

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    If only StackExchange had a facepalm reaction.
    – Adam
    Mar 28 at 19:46
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    @Adam To be fair, I've seen some wildly incorrect claims made across StackExchange that were upvoted and accepted (and sometimes downvoted and accepted regardless).
    – cmw
    Mar 28 at 19:51
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    Also, getting rid of the ego yields "I speak plainly."
    – cmw
    Mar 29 at 21:05
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    @Adam you can actually use emoji now: 🤦‍♂️
    – Rafael
    Apr 2 at 10:17
  • This still has not been fixed. @Rafael With no ego, it yields "sPEAK PLAINLY." It's so broken!
    – cmw
    Aug 7 at 5:29
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So I'm just gonna go ahead and post the answer that started it.

While translating "sheperd" via Google translate yields "pastor" as expected, translating "goatherd" does not yield the expected "pastor" but rather "unus caprimulgus" which back-translates as one of a kind of bird named for its myth of drinking goat's milk.

I actually had somebody argue with me that "goatherd" -> "pastor" was not correct but rather "unus caprimulgus" was. I can't imagine the line of thinking that would cause somebody to actually believe its correct. Even a smattering of Latin would produce something closer to "one goat".

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    ”...named for its myth of drinking goat’s milk” — as in “chupacabra”? Mar 27 at 4:43
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    A pastor isn't specifically a goatherd, and a caprimulgus is at least a milker of goats (in addition to specifically being a nightjar). For "goatherd" I would expect to get back caprarius, though, and the unus is completely indefensible.
    – Cairnarvon
    Mar 27 at 18:40
  • @Cairnarvon: I don't actually know if Latin has a separate word for goatherd but I know that both Greek and Hebrew do not but rather the same word was used in the time of antiqity for both shepherd and goatherd.
    – Joshua
    Mar 27 at 19:53
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    @Joshua I don't know Hebrew but that's not true for Greek. ποιμήν is a generic herdsman and defaults strongly to sheep alone, οἰοπόλος is specifically a shepherd (οἶς 'sheep'), αἰπόλος is specifically a goatherd (αἴξ 'goat'). The same is true for Latin: pastor is a generic herdsman defaulting to sheep, opilio is sheep, caprarius is goats (opilio is rare and a loan, but the other two are very transparent constructions). Goats and sheep were kept for very different purposes, it doesn't make sense to conflate them.
    – Cairnarvon
    Mar 27 at 23:21
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Oh wow, it's almost like this question was made just for me. I was writing a Latin crossword exercise, where the clues and answers were both in Latin. I wrote the clue "Semper dicebat Carthaginem esse delendam" ("He was always saying Carthage must be destroyed", the answer being "Cato Maior"). I decided to put this clue into GT and it came back, "THE ELDER always said." Apparently whoever had seeded the translator didn't strip out quote attributions first.

(GT no longer provides this translation, possibly since I submitted a correction. I'll admit I kinda wish I hadn't.)

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Another howler (to go with the carrots perhaps):

Sacrificium laudis → Ham

Credit where it is due, this one was discovered and pointed out on Twitter by John Byron Kuhner. As of this writing, it can still be reproduced.

What it really means is "sacrifice of praise," and it comes from Psalm 49:14 (Psalm 50 in English bibles). I have no idea how this translation happened.

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  • It's been fixed, but if you click on laudis, Ham is still a possible suggestion.
    – cmw
    Aug 7 at 5:32
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From Wikipedia's Fermat's Last Theorem; Fermat's conjecture is the famous note in the margin that boggled mathematicians for centuries.

Original there:

Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos & generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.

English translation there:

It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

which I used in a comment below Why do some call the no-hair conjecture the no-hair theorem?.

Putting Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet into google translate returns

The shortness of this brink, he could not contain her.

Putting "Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet" into google translate returns "The shortness of this brink, he could not contain her."

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    You know, all things considered, that's weird but not terrible! What's strange is that it doesn't know to drop the pronoun if there's a named subject. But out of context it makes a little sense...if you squint...
    – cmw
    Aug 7 at 5:31
  • @cmw yes, after returning today and squinting I see what you mean; it's probably just the pronouns that are throwing me off.
    – uhoh
    Aug 7 at 23:32
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    Yes, it's not correct or even good, and it definitely showcases what's wrong with Google translate, but could be worse, I guess.
    – cmw
    Aug 7 at 23:35

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