From Iceland — Lost In Google Translation: Earthquake Produces A Rumble Of Drunks

Lost In Google Translation: Earthquake Produces A Rumble Of Drunks

Lost In Google Translation: Earthquake Produces A Rumble Of Drunks

Published December 4, 2021

John Pearson
Photo by
Markus Winkler

Last month, the daily newspaper Morgunblaðið appeared to report that an earthquake near Hekla—the active volcano in the south—had caused the nearby farm of Selsund to be overrun by drunks.

Woah! Hang on a second. Aren’t active volcanoes supposed to spit out ash-caked changelings? That’s what Baltasar Kormákur told us, anyway. Is someone trying to sell us some sort of low-rent, English football hooligan version of ‘Katla’ here?

Well, no. Rather boringly, this is merely another case of GoogleBollocks™, when the world’s favourite language mistranslation algorithm is asked to interpret a headline, and fails. Miserably.

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The Icelandic phrase “drunur gengu yfir bæinn”, which it seems The GoogleMangle™ interpreted as “drunks swept over the town”, is probably better rendered as “a rumble swept over the town”. At least that’s what Valur Grettisson, The Grapevine’s editor-in-chief, says. He should know, being a proper Icelander and all. And his linguistic abilities aren’t governed—as far as we know—by some confused Google app, Zuckerdroid style.

So don’t believe everything you read; it’s perfectly safe to travel to southern Iceland. The chances of you encountering a zombie-like hoard of slobbering drunks—shouting incoherently, and singing at the tops of their lungs—are slim. Assuming, of course, that Selsund hasn’t become the new cheap package destination for British stag parties.

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