Home > Contemplations > GoogleBlog’s Amusing Mistranslation of President Barack Obama’s Name

GoogleBlog’s Amusing Mistranslation of President Barack Obama’s Name


In the Official Google Blog posting “Search findings from the U.S. presidential inauguration” dated 1/20/2009 I was surprised to find that when they referenced the searches in Hebrew from the Middle East they said people searched for “ברק אובמה (Barack introduction — Hebrew)”. I, personally, am not fluent in Hebrew but I can read it and write it perfectly and those search terms read “Barack Obama”. I showed this posting to some of my friends 2 specifically who are fluent in Hebrew and one of whom lived in Israel from his early teens to mid-20s and they couldn’t find anything wrong with the above quoted text so I am going to spell it out. The search terms in Hebrew read Barack Obama (transliterated into Hebrew) and Google in telling us what the Israelis/Hebrew speakers were searching for has translated the search term as if ‘Obama’ in Hebrew means ‘introduction’ in English but it doesn’t, it’s not even a word. Funnily enough, if they were going to misinterpret the search terms and give an English translation for the name Barack Obama they should have translated the word ‘Barack’ which is the word in Hebrew for ‘lightning’. (This Hebrew term might even be familiar to the more well read of my readers who have read Herman Wouk’s “The Hope” and its sequel “The Glory” as one of the books’ central fictional characters ‘Zev Barak‘ is nicknamed by his American mistress Emily Cunningham his name translated into English “Wolf Lightning“.)

I am thinking Google’s mistake might be in their reading Hebrew from left to right as you would English as opposed to right to left as is proper. The reason for this assumption is that amusingly enough “אובמה” reads “מבוא”Meh’voe” when read left to right and with its last letter dropped (the letter on the left hand side of the word). Meh’voe” translated into English means “Introduction”. Add that last letter “ה” to the word “מבוא” to get המבוא”” and it means “the introduction” as that letter, the “ה“, means “the” when put in front of a word.

This has me wondering though how many of the other words in other languages the people at Google mistranslated (in that post and elsewhere)!!!

Your comments on this story would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

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