One-legged pantographs

I'm bored. Or at least, I was bored.

After a much-reduced teaching load, it's that time of year when my students return from their work experience, or should we now say internships since they all write it despite my best efforts because that's what it says on Google translate, and aforementioned students dash off their reports.

Sometimes these reports are good. Students in Computer Science ("Informatics" - Google again) have to write a presentation of their host company with a brief history, all in English, and I have to read/ correct/mark it. The brief is, it has to be at least three pages long and a maximum of 10. So I get three pages, double spaced lines, lots of pics occupying half a page... and I get paid for 10 minutes work per copy. You've guessed it, it takes me at least half an hour per copy. But who's complaining?

The work is rather tedious because I have to correct the same mistakes about 40 times. We don't say enterprise, we say company, enterprise is something else. It's Star Trek. We don't say "I've worked in X during 10 weeks", we say "I worked in X for 10 weeks". And so on. I'm still not complaing.

Sometimes, you get the clever herberts who write in flowing 19th century French, complete with past historic and everything, and chuck it all on a translator on internet and press "print". I love it when that happens. I write in big red letters on the first page, "you can't be bothered to write it, I can't be bothered to read it."

By the way, these translators sometimes throw up pearls. "I had to configure a waiter". But surely you mean a server, a big central computer, don't you dear? hat's how we translate "un serveur" in this case. "I enjoyed my stage bus it was very interested." interesting/interested I can cope with, but bus? ahh!!!! CAR il était très intéressant! There was something about a back-end passage in one of them. Still not complaining.

But sometimes I'm flummoxed. try this for size: "In 1955 Louis Faverley launched the one-legged pantograph which was used for the speed world record of 331km/h." F*** me, that was fast for 1955, whatever it was! I have to add, this is on the first page of the report. Louis Faverley apparently made platform doors too. Not complaining, because I feel that i'm about to learn something. The word transport begins to appear. My inkling was spot on. (Ah, spot, that reminds me: "I had three spots to achieve". Tâches, luvvie, or taches?)

So I did in fact know what a pantograph was, goodness knows how, I haven't possessed an anorak since I was about 12 and became a fashion victim.

I could resist it no longer. I typed "one-legged pantograph" in to the little window, and lo and behold, it threw up 6 pages! Bingo! I didn't get out of bed for nothing today! I'm a wiser person, and one day, it will just have to be in a trivia quiz, and i'll put my hand up and shout "ONE-LEGGED PANTOGRAPHS!" But then everybody will know the answer and write it down, but I don't care.

Here is an extract from one of the pages:

"But I must admit that I like to see the one-legged pantograph lean backwards on a single-ended car, just to make it look more elegant. Will someone please turn the pantographs on the single-ended Brussels PCC cars, if there are any left?"

I'm off to finish correcting Stéphane's report now.


I'm afraid some of the translator programs remind me of Gerard Hoffnung and his monologue of the french hôtelier."Bedroom with bath I have not. Bathroom with bed I have. ........ There is a French widow in every room that affords the most delightful prospects!"


One of thebest I had , English original to French translation someone wanted to say the next paragraph was a lift from another report.......yep ascenceur!! At least it made me smile!

Feel for you, Keith. My licence students (commercialisation de produits de terroirs) would talk about how the veals were raised under the mother, a not too hot direct translation which came up time after time and amways made me cringe. As for I live here since 2 years... got miles of grammar out of that one everytime ;-)

So Keith are you suggesting we remain humaime (sic) and the interweb ain’t all its cracked up to be.
Loved the article btw (which spell check corriged as “brew”) think we may be on the same wave length.

So I’ll finish with a ‘smiley’ semi colon hyphen close parentheses.