Reflexo-machine-translation hits the big time

New book by concept artist duo HARA Rintarō and HARA Yū, 匂いをかがれる かぐや姫 ~日本昔話 Remix~ ("Scent-smelling Princess Kaguya: Japanese folk tale remix") is, as far as I can tell, a straight application to Japanese folk tales of that old web favorite, machine-translating something from language X to language Y and then back to X again for humorous effect.

The title, for example, comes about because the kaguya in "Princess Kaguya" is that special variety of machine translation kryptonite, a proper noun that defies meaningful analysis under the living language's rules. (Though its likely meaning of "shining [in the?] [night?]" is not hard to see given that morphemes like kagayak- (shine) and ya (night) survive in MJ.) On the other hand, it is quite susceptible to meaningless analysis, as kagu (smell [transitive]) + ya (as soon as).

So, kaguya hime returned from its round trip as 匂いをかがれるとすぐに, プリンセス (which is awkward due to Japanese being right in the middle of reorganizing its passive form, but could theoretically be interpreted as "as soon as her scent was smelled, a princess" or "as soon as she smelled [honorific] a scent, a princess"; the translation offered by the authors is "as soon as it smelled, princess").

"Momotarō" ("Peach Tarō", "Peach Boy"), came back relatively unharmed as "Momotaro", but its famous onomatopoeic opening was not so fortunate:

A certain day, when the old woman washed on the river, one very big peach with boss Buracocco, boss Buraco flowed from an upper reaches of the river. "Oh dear, a savory peach. Let's make it the old man's souvenir." The old woman scooped the peach coming drifting and came back to the smile Family.

Yes: the aged and much beloved mimetic phrase used to describe the peach's journey down the river donburakokko donburako has become the sinister duo Don Buracocco and Don Buraco.

More at the Haras' homepage. Paper which mentions them in passing.

Popularity factor: 4


All in all, I think I still prefer Princess Furniture Store and Peach Bob.


(Btw, it case it really wasn't clear, that comment a while back was about the order of Japanese names in English and the "fair" expedient of capitalizing all surnames.)


I'm a bit confused about one line, did you mean to imply that the Japanese language is currently changing in such a way that the passive form is changing in modern use? If so, could you give any examples?
If not, no worries.


I remember reading a collection (from the 60s?) where Peach Boy was titled Son of a Peach. I imagine the translator and/or layout artist had a quiet chuckle over that.


Excellent alternatives, y'all.

Clayton: Oh, just an awkward reference to ra-nuki and all that. I'm still excited!

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