October 20, 2007

To what after shampooing?

A recent xkcd offered a new twist on an old theme:

Some might consider that the mouseover title "Hit Turing right in the test-ees" is just a bit off, given this biograpical detail (as presented in Alan Turing's wikipedia bio):

In 1952, Turing was convicted of "acts of gross indecency" after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man in Manchester. He was placed on probation and required to undergo estrogen therapy to achieve temporary chemical castration. Turing died after eating an apple laced with cyanide in 1954. His death was ruled a suicide.

In a different variety of extended Turing Test, we've put a lot of effort over the past few years into trying to determine the nature of the "translators" who create the English-language labels and documentation for Chinese products and services. Bad computer programs? Incompetent human beings armed with large dictionaries and strange theories about how to choose among lexicographical alternatives? A team of infiltrators from The Onion?

Here's the most recent clue, sent in by Victor Mair (who apologizes for failing to provide his usual analysis of the corresponding Chinese):

The sentence fragment at the end, following "cool off to wash the shape of water after 5 minutes", is puzzling. It suggests that there's more going on here than just injudicious lexical choice.

Posted by Mark Liberman at October 20, 2007 11:13 AM