Dustman lost in translation

I’m an enormous fan of online translation machines, so much so that I once used one to give an interview, by e-mail, to a Brazilian academic who spoke only Portuguese. When finished, I tried to work out how accurate the machine had been by translating my words into Portuguese and using the same machine to translate them back. It was absolutely incomprehensible.

Here, for example, is one machine’s attempt to translate the chorus to My Old Man’s a Dustman into German:

Mein alter Mann ist ein Müllabfuhrmann, trägt er die Schutzkappe eines Müllabfuhrmannes, trägt er Gottvorhang ich Hose, und er lebt in einer Wohnung des Rates.

And here is the machine’s attempt to translate it back again:

My old man is a garbage disposal man, carries he the protective cap of a garbage disposal man, carries he for God curtain I trousers, and he lives in a dwelling of the advice.

I did try to help by translating the idiom “cor blimey” into its original meaning, “God blind me”, but it didn’t help much. If Lonnie Donegan had recorded the song with those lyrics he might have been stuck in a dwelling of the advice for life.

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