Adrift in Google Translate.

I follow a guy named Ivan Ivanovich Puzyrkov on Facebook, and I liked this post so much I thought I’d bring it here (my translation — ironically, GT doesn’t do a very good job):

Nov. 20, 2022, a beautiful sunny day. MEANWHILE, the future has arrived, and Google fucking Translate already translates so well that sometimes you can’t tell the difference. Man is lazy; why waste energy, which isn’t there anyway, on wading through foreign texts when it’s more convenient to speed-read them in your own language? (Just don’t tell the students.) Besides, I’m probably not going to learn, for example, Hungarian in this lifetime, and now just look at the prospects that open up, as long as there’s a pdf with the text.

I’ve gotten addicted to it lately; I put whole little libraries into it, and zippity bop, you have another monograph translated into the language of our native aspens and you can read to your heart’s content. You keep the original at hand, of course, but on the whole, it’s a normal translation, normal. That’s when the card, as they say, burst into my hand.

That gives rise to another problem: more and more often I catch myself thinking “I think I’ll put this text into the translator, it’s really complicated,” I start looking for the button, and then I realize, oh, it’s already in Russian! So it seems that Google still has a lot of work to do.

Some notes (I always pick up bits of culture and language from his exuberant posts):

What I translated “speed-read” is literally “read diagonally”; that seems to be a popular method among Russian-speakers. Apparently it’s a thing in English too, but I doubt it’s well enough known that such a rendering would make sense to most people. My “zippity bop” represents тыдыщ, which is not a standard Russian word but a nonce form, a “funny word” used to celebrate something getting fixed, and since I love the funny phrase I used, I used it. “The language of our native aspens” is a well-known phrase from a sarcastic quatrain of Turgenev’s making fun of the hapless Nikolai Kecher, who translated Shakespeare into wretched Russian prose. My “read to your heart’s content” renders “читай, не хочу,” literally “read, I don’t want (to),” a variant of the idiom “Живи ― не хочу” that I wrote about here. We discussed the term “normal” back in 2008. And “That’s when the card burst into my hand” is the punch line to a Chapaev joke: Petka shows up decked out in gold finery, Chapaev asks how he got it, and Petka says “I went into a club where they were playing twenty-one, and at first I wasn’t getting the right card. And then one of them says ‘twenty-one,’ and I say ‘show me,’ and he says ‘Gentlemen are to be taken at their word.’ And that’s when the card burst into my hand.”

And a happy Thanksgiving to those of my readers who celebrate it! Warning: we’re going to have turkey with the Songdogs this afternoon, and by the time we get back we’ll probably just roll straight into bed, so if your comments get stuck in moderation they won’t be freed until sometime tomorrow. Verbum sap.


  1. Maybe “fweet!” instead of “zippity bop”?

    Happy tryptophan coma to you and yours!

  2. AFAIK “read diagonally” doesn’t mean speed-reading and doesn’t represent any specific technique of reading. It’s just an expression for scanning or glancing over the text.

  3. “How come that you don’t know X? You studied it!” “Well, actually I read the textbook по диагонали…”.

  4. His account is friends-only but if it’s the same noctu_vigilus as on LiveJournal, then he must be one of the greatest Russophone bloggers of all times. He teaches history (mostly regional I believe) at Tyumen University and writes first-rate poetry. Ivan Ivanovich Puzyrkov is a pen name (of course) but googling it will soon bring up his real one.

  5. While I can’t speak for Russian, diagonal reading is a fairly well-known term for scanning. Scanning meaning to read the first sentence and the last sentence of a paragraph, proverbially diagonally from the top-left words to the bottom-right words. Along the way from the first to the last sentence, more or less diagonally over the middle, also letting some (allegedly important) words jump out to the brain.

    It’s one of the standard reading techniques taught to high schoolers.

  6. In Russian it is just an idiomatic way to say “inattentively”. It can mean skipping a couple of pages here and there, for example. But I never was taught any reading techniques.

  7. I know тыдыщ from here (my friend used the word – the gesture that accompanies it in the cartoon – with her daugher)

  8. David Marjanović says

    I never was taught any reading techniques

    Me neither.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    Me neither too.

  10. I was, unfortunately, taught both skimming and close reading techniques at various points in school. I did not find either type of formal method useful.

  11. I concur that formalizing such scanning techniques feels useless to me, but supposedly it helps others. Compare learning about logical fallacies which is similarly useless, yet evidence in that case does clearly show it’s not useless to many.

  12. Tickety-Boo.

  13. I would put it as “that’s when my luck changed” or something like that. I don’t think he means just one card but cards in general and I wasn’t sure what “burst into my hand” was getting at. It made me think of Petka hiding it up his sleeve.

  14. I don’t think he means just one card but cards in general and I wasn’t sure what “burst into my hand” was getting at. It made me think of Petka hiding it up his sleeve.

    No, it’s clear from context that he’s lying about having the needed card, now that he knows nobody will make him prove it:

    Захожу в клуб, а там в карты в очко играют. Вначале то карта не шла.
    А потом один говорит “У меня очко”, а я ему ну-ка покажи, а он
    “Джентельменам верят на слово”
    И тут у меня карта как поперла….

  15. His account is friends-only

    Oops, sorry! Here’s his post in Russian:

    20.11.2022 г., прекрасный солнечный день. МЕЖ ТЕМ, будущее наступило, и гугл, мать его, переводчик, переводит уже так, что иногда и не отличишь. Человек ленив, зачем тратить энергию, которой уже и так нет, на продирание через иностранные тексты, когда читать их по диагонали удобнее на родном языке? (Студентам только не говорите). Ну и, кроме того, вероятно, не выучу я в этой жизни, например, венгерский, а тут прямо такие перспективы открываются, был бы только pdf с текстом.
    Я в последнее время пристрастился к этому, заливаю целые маленькие библиотеки туда, тыдыщ, тыдыщ, и у тебя есть перевод на язык родных осин очередной монографии, читай, не хочу, держишь под рукой оригинал, конечно, но в целом, нормальный такой перевод, нормальный. Тут-то у меня, как говорится, карта и поперла.
    Из этого вырастает другая проблема – все чаще я ловлю себя на том, что вот бы загнать и этот текст в переводчик, больно мудрено, уже начинаю искать кнопку, а потом понимаю, ох, он уже и так на русском! И вот тут еще гуглу, видимо, работать и работать.

    Ivan Ivanovich Puzyrkov is a pen name (of course) but googling it will soon bring up his real one.

    I can’t seem to find it. Can you give me a hint?

  16. I submitted a comment which seems to have wandered off on the way to being posted but suggested:

    “skim” for “read diagonally”
    “Ka-ching!” for “тыдыщ”

  17. “Ka-ching!” these days signifies sudden riches, from the sound of a cash register opening.

  18. Yeah, “Ka-ching!” doesn’t work for me, but “skim” is excellent.

  19. Interesting… never thought of “ka-ching” as specifically a cash register, just some machine chugging and then popping something out. Which is exactly what тыдыщ seems to be onomatopoeia for (I’ve never encountered it before though, so it’s just a guess based on the sound and context).

  20. The cartoon (where it seems it is borrowed from) defines it as the triumfant call of its characters (whose job is fixing equipment).
    It can be related to ta-da! (fanfare).

    Cartoon caption words (my own name: I mean words that function as cartoon captions, e.g. boom! they are not always onomatopoeias) often have a suffix that adds a sense of abruptness, cf. chirik-chirik “chirp”.
    Among them words like babakh! “boom” or pizdykh! (not an onomatopoeia, the root is obscene:)).
    -ыщ is somethin I know from the slang of 2000s, e.g. I remember some girl would sometimes write in a chat пыщ пыщ пыщ and I have no idea what she meant. Maybe it is just “. . .” or maybe she just likes the sound of it. Ы and Щ are both a bit “weird” within Russian phonology (and may take more effort to pronounce than other sounds).

    So apprarently here it was repurposed as a suffix with the same meaning as -p , -k, -akh, -ykh.

  21. OK fine I watched the cartoon. Yeah OK, given the extra context I agree with “zippity bop”. But I don’t like it 🙂

  22. PlasticPaddy says

    Not sure if this is what she meant…
    “Для субкультуры важна тема фекалий — так, с жаргоном упячки часто ассоциируется слово «пыщь-пыщь», осмысливаемое как дефекация и употребляемое вместе с «УГ» и «лучами поноса». По мнению Максима Кронгауза, изначально это было звукоподражание выстрелам из пистолета или их имитации.”

  23. @PP, thank you! Yes, it could be пыщь, which in turn (1) is used on упячка (2) consistent with its undescribable style.

    But I believe she did not осмысливала it as defecation:)

  24. January First-of-May says

    FWIW my brother uses the exact form тыдыщ as onomatopoeia for hitting (and by extension for, e.g., military victories), and it comes as a surprise to me that it could mean anything else. I would probably use something like тадам in this triumphant context.

  25. @LH: I’ll send you an email with a link or two.

  26. Takk!

  27. That’s interesting about пыщ. I worked with a Ukrainian developer who used it to mean “ping” – a short message to get someone’s attention and make sure they are online.

  28. Yes, I meant exactly this when I said “. . .”

  29. I will be honest. I used Google Translate ALL THE TIME when I was translating towards the end. It’s easier on the brain to clean up a crappy translation than it is to do the hard yakka of finding appropriate vocab, creating sentence structures, and fitting them all together, before you go and clean up your own translation.

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