Editing Israel

Reverse Engineering

…working out how mistakes arise.

Friend and fellow author and editor, Sue Barnard, posted this image from the Metro newspaper on Facebook last week.

I imagined the scene in the newspaper offices.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“I haven’t heard yet.”
“Let me know ASAP. I’ll write boy for now and change it if it’s a girl.”

Then I remembered the term for this from my hi tech days: reverse engineering. The Oxford Shorter English Dictionary says this is:

the reproduction of another manufacturer’s product following detailed examination of its construction or composition.

Well, maybe that’s not quite what I meant, but you get the idea. I’m thinking about working out how mistakes arise. That reminded me of those weird automatic translations. We’ve seen plenty of those around the world.

But the translations that make me laugh the most are the ones I see here in Israel, because I can work out how they came about. Take this one that I saw recently in Akko (Acre):

The word ‘character’ doesn’t describe the privileged residents; it means a letter or digit. But it’s incorrect here because it’s translated from the wrong meaning of the Hebrew word ‘tav’. ‘Tav’ can mean many things, including a ‘character’, but in this case it refers to a car sticker. So, there’s a double confusion here.


Automatic translations do not replace editors.

And changing something in a text often has implications for the rest of the text.

Look out for my next post, which will be about identity. That’s who you are, rather than the card you do or don’t carry.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

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