June 28, 2007

O Grammar, water bag noise!

Are knolls lace two pus, spicily delays won, tree good mime emery oven awed ick seabed third eyesore a tech's blurry Torydom, insane French disco, f-you your say go.

Lace into astir up butter ladle gull whodunit lace into whore murder, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. Eye canoli proses sit would ma ice clues.

Wait a minute! What I meant to say was...

Arnold's last two posts, especially the last one, triggered my memory of an odd exhibit that I saw at the Exploratorium, in San Francisco, a few years ago.

Listen to a story about a little girl who didn't listen to her mother, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. I can only process it with my eyes closed.

Unlike most Exploratorium exhibits, this one is not very clearly linked into any actual scientific lesson -- the text at the bottom says something about the 'importance of intonation' to the process of understanding. It's really bigger than that -- as Arnold said with respect to the spellchecking standup routine, it's about the importance of context, both linguistic and conceptual, to language processing.

Update, from grixit:

Analog Magazine, approx 1974, the story, "Come You Nigh, Kay Shuns". A couple of smart aleck word twisting humans use this technique to sneak a message past evesdropping aliens who only knew English through an automated dictionary.

Update II, from Nathan Austin:

Thanks for posting H. L. Chace's "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" on Language Log! I was previously unaware of this particular instance of homophonic translation, and it's interesting to learn more about its history.

As I'm sure you are aware, there is a rich history of homophonic translation within the tradition of experimental poetry. But Chace's is the earliest instance I believe I have ever seen. So, thanks!

If you *aren't* aware of poetic play with homophonic translation, you might look at Louis Zukofsky's "Catullus" or David Melnick's "Men in Aida."

Melnick's poem is available here: http://english.utah.edu/eclipse/projects/AIDA/aida.html

He also sends a link to several other Furry Tails, Noisier Rams, and Thongs transliterated into aproxihomophones by Chace -- Guilty Looks Enter Tree Beers, e.g.:


Nathan also pointed out that Language Hat has a couple of posts on homophonic translations, here


and here:


Of course Ladle Rat Rotten Hut isn't a translation, and the meanings of the homophones chosen don't reveal any relationship to the meanings of the words or the original. But the idea of choosing words to mimic sounds which can be processed as other words is common to both.

David Eddyshaw sent along a version which he had punctuated so that a text-to-speech program would read it with convincing intonational patterns; it's below. I tried it out with my Mac's text-to-speech utility (in Stephen Hawking's voice), and it worked pretty darn well. (To hear your Mac say it to you, go into 'System Preferences', click 'Speech'; check the 'Speak selected text when the key is pressed' box and select an unused apple-key combo (I set mine to 'apple-ctrl-shift-s'). Then highlight the text in your browser window, hit your chosen key combination, and listen to the machine read you the furry tail.)

Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut. Wants-pawn term, dare worsted-ladle gull-hoe lift-wetter murder-inner ladle cordage honor itch-offer lodge-dock florist. Disc-ladle gull orphan worry-ladle rat-cluck wetter ladle rat-hut, in fur disc raisin, pimple cauldron "Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut."

Wan moaning, Ladle Rat-Rotten Huts-murder colder-inset, "Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut, heresy-ladle basking-winsome burden-barter an shirker-cockles. Tick disc-ladle basking tudor cordage-offer-groin-murder, hoe lifts honor udder-site offer-florist. Shaker lake! Dun stopper-laundry wrote! Dun daily doily inner florist! Dun stopper peck flaws! An yonder nor sorghum stenches, stopper-torque wet-strainers!"

"Hoe-cake, murder!" resplendent-ladle-gull. Den sea tucker-basking an stuttered-oft.

Honor-wrote tudor-cordage-offer-groin-murder, Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut mitten anomalous-woof. "Wail wail wail!" set disc wicket-woof. "Effervescent Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut! Wares are putty-ladle gull goring wizard-ladle-basking?"

"Aroma-goring tumor-grammars" reprisal-ladle gull. "Grammars seeking bet. Armor-ticking arson burden-barter an shirker-cockles"

"Owe hoe!" setter wicket woof "heffer gnats woke!" Butter taught tomb-shelf, "Oil tickle shirt-court tudor-cordage offer groin-murder! Oil ketchup witter-letter an den, ore baw!"

Soda wicket woof tucker-shirt-court tudor-cordage-offer groin-murder. Whinny raft-adder cordage, E picked inner windrow an sore debtor pore-oil-worming, worse lion inner bet. Inner flesh disc abdominal woof lipped-honor bet, paunched-honor pore-oil-worming, an garbled erupt. Den disc ratchet ammonal pud-honor groin-murders nut-cup an gnat-gun, any curdle-dope inner bet.

Inner ladle wile, Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut a raft attar-cordage-offer groin-murder, an rancor dough-bawl.

"Comb-ink, sweat-hard!" setter wicket woof, disgracing is verse.

Ladle Rat-Rotten-Hut entity-bet-rum an stud-buyer groin-murders bet.

"Owe grammar!" crater-ladle gull-historically, "Wart bag icer-gut! A nervous sausage-bag ice!"

"Battered lucky-chew-whiff doll-ink!" setter bloat-Thursday woof, wither wicket small honors-phase.

"Owe grammar!" crater ladle gull. "Water bag noise! A nervous sore suture-anomalous prognosis!"

"Alder batter day small-ewe-whiff doling!" whiskered-dole woof, ants mouse worse-waddling.

"Owe grammar!" crater ladle gull. "Water bag mouser-gut! A nervous sore-suture bag mouse!"

Daze worry in forger-nut gulls-lest warts. Oil-offer sodden, caking-offer carvers an sprinkling-otter bet, disc curl an hoard-hoarded woof ceased pore Ladle-Rat Rotten-Hut an garbled erupt!

Mural: Yonder gnaw sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper-torque-wet strainers.

Posted by Heidi Harley at June 28, 2007 09:04 PM