"Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song, Google-Translated

Joe Sabia of the video music experiment project CDZA (also our collaborator in Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America!) asks, "What happens when you translate The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song through every language on Google Translate.... and then BACK into English?"



  1. Seems like a decent option for writing new lyrics. Write a mundane essay about going to the store and buying some milk, translate it 60 times, then sing it. Suddenly everyone’s congratulating you on how your song saved their marriage and ended crime.

    1. it’s a pretty old trope.
      So old that Philip K. Dick described a game in Galactic Pot-Healer(published 1969), where players would use a computer to translate book titles to Japanese and back again and try to guess what the original title was.Prior to that I would wager that gentelment had peasant try to spell book titles and decifer what the original word is.

  2. I’m actually surprised by how WELL it works. Up through the first 10 languages or so the result is actually largely intelligible. It is a bit strange sounding (apricot seems to worm it’s way into the translation almost immediately), but entirely usable.

    1.  “Apricot” worked it’s in so early I thought it must have been in the original and was just some late 80’s slang term I missed. I took a long break from TV in the mid to late 80’s and never watched much after that, so I didn’t know better.

      Anyone have any ideas how “apricot” got in there. I’d wager it’s something like Backstroke of the West, a confusion of Chinese characters used to transliterate a foreign word with the words those characters represent in Mandarin.

      1. Might also be a two-part character where only one part is translated (or translated correctly) back to english. After all, hanzias well as kanji are quite… pictorial.

        Plus, I am also amazed. Tried this in, ahem, 1999, I seem to recall, with the AltaVista Babelfish. Funniest was translating “Road Trippin'” to Korean and back. (Now I would have to look up when the Bablefish learned Korean…) Best subsitute lines ever. Somewhere, somthing always invoked a dragon. And a lot of food, mainly rice. My absulute favorite line was “The military disciplin is an unavoidable green onion”. I LOVE babbling this every now and then. Some of my former flatmates take this as my second signature line…

    2. Yeah, I think it says how far our ability to machine translate language has come. It seems like not too long ago if you played this sort of game you’d get total gibberish after just one translate and back.

    1.  One take THAT time, doesn’t mean they didn’t try multiple takes until the got it right. I thought the whole thing was kind of MEH myself. Pretty much every single phone message I get on google voice has a transcription that’s funnier than this. Oh well. At least they tried. Bravo to that.

  3. I used to do this with poetry to generate unexpected phrasing and usage of tenses. = I do this with hair generate unexpected formulas and use of time.

    It doesn’t always work out well.

      1. Translation Party uses the Google Translate API to translate a phrase from English to Japanese and back again until the resulting output ceases changing. In an admission that probably reveals a great deficiency in my character, I enjoy putting the opening lines of novels into Translation Party.

        The opening of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is: “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.” But on the other end of TP you get: “When it happens, is a slightly different story from the stories of ordinary people.”

        The opening of The Old Man and the Sea (“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”) resolves to “80 Had a stream arrest 4, his boat Bay.”

        Not always funny or interesting, but what can I say, I have a problem.

  4. I love the song “A determined mistique” of Hidrogenesse, which is a machine translation of an interview with Morrissey
    Last year they made a new version for the album “A binary digit iffy. Recital for Alan Turing”

    can be seen on youtube in Spanish, not subtitled: (

  5. The reason Cinderella has a glass slipper is that when the story was translated from French, the word for fur was mistaken fo the word for glass.

  6. Mark Twain did it first. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Celebrated_Jumping_Frog_of_Calaveras_County#Translations

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