Content-Type: text/shitpost

Subject: Machine Translation in Gibson's “Idoru”
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!wescac​!berserker​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-09-26T16:42:18
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Content-Type: text/shitpost

William Gibson, Idoru, chapter 16:

Chia began the story of Maryalice and the rest of it, while Zona Rosa sat and peeled and sharpened her stick, frowning.

“Fuck your mother,” Zona Rosa said, when Chia had finished her story. The translation rendered her tone as either amazement or disgust, Chia couldn't tell.

“What?” Chia's confusion was absolute.

The characters have never met in person; they are interacting in a virtual space. Zona Rosa lives in Mexico, and is speaking (or writing) Spanish. She has actually said “chinga tu madre”, which in this context is an idiomatic expression of amazement and disgust. The machine translator that has been automatically rendering all her dialogue into English has mistakenly opted for a literal translation.

Wikipedia reminds me that:

The seven-note musical flourish known as a “Shave and a Haircut (two bits)”, commonly played on car horns, is associated in Mexico with the seven-syllable phrase ¡Chinga tu madre, cabrón! … Playing the jingle on a car horn can result in a hefty fine …

In William Gibson's Idoru, Two of the characters meet only online, in a virtual space. At one point they are conversing. The first character says something innocuous, and the second remarks “Fuck your mother.” She is Mexican, has been speaking in Spanish the whole time, and everything we have read has been an automatic machine translation.