Whale oil

Passed on by Larry Selinker on Facebook, this t-shirt purporting to be in “Irish” — well, Irish English:

Well I’ll be fucked.

From an 11/2/12 posting on “Icelandic for Dummies”:

This sort of pairing of texts [in Icelandic for Dummies] — an original unremarkable text paired with a “translation” into a sequence of similar-sounding words that makes no sense in the context (or, many times, no sense at all) — is known as, among other things, homophonic translation. The translation can be between texts in different languages (bilingual homophonic translation, as here) or between texts in the same language (monolingual homophonic translation, as in texts like “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut”, in a posting by Heidi Harley here). [or “Oo watta na Siam”, mentioned here]

… In the case of homophonic translations, the “translation” is more like word-for-word substitution based on phonological similarity than like ordinary semantically based translation, and the word-to-word relationship is not full homophony but something more like the imperfect puns in jokes, which are often quite distant phonologically.

There are several ways to go in naming. The name homophonic translation uses technical or semi-technical labels in (at least partially) transparent combination; but it’s fairly long and kind of clunky. It can be abbreviated by the initialism HT — brief and snappy, but not at all transparent. Or we could go for an exemplar as the name of the phenomenon: say, Mots d’Heures (from “Mots d’Heures, Gousses, Rames”) for bilingual HTs and Ladle Rats for monolingual HT’s (compare eggcorns for a type of mistake) — but at the risk of obscurity. Like I said, no name is perfect

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