Haunted laptop?

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Daniel Sturman writes:

I was looking for information about the composer Sébastien de Brossard, and used Bing’s automatic translation to open each of his seven non-English Wikipedia pages.

The translation from Russian made a rather curious choice that gave the page a Lovecraftian feel, with a tinge of Zalgo:

The original paragraph was:

Музыковедческие труды Броссара переиздаются, его музыку активно исполняют французские аутентисты (Барочный ансамбль Лиможа, Галантный Меркурий, Жерар Лен, Вероника Жан, Дельфина Колло и др.).

which Google renders more conventionally as:

Brossard's musicological works are being republished, his music is actively performed by French authenticists (the Baroque ensemble of Limoges, Gallant Mercury, Gerard Len, Veronica Jean, Delphine Collot, etc.).

Curiously, Bing’s translator page (https://www.bing.com/translator) also has no trouble handling the paragraph when you present it in isolation:

Brossard's musical works are reprinted, his music is actively performed by French authenticists (Baroque ensemble Limoges, Gallant Mercury, Gerard Len, Veronica Jean, Delphine Collo, etc.).

It’s only when you paste the URL  into Bing and ask it to translate the page as a whole that it descends into gibbering madness.

But when I tried the paste-the-page-into-a browser-that-invokes-Bing step, I got the more plausible translation:

So then Daniel found that the weirdness is machine-dependent:

I just tried it on another computer and I get the correct translation the way you do. It’s only on this computer (no matter the browser) that I get the weirdness — my personal laptop, which uses Windows 10. My primary browser is Firefox but I tried it on both Edge and IE and got the same thing. The other computer is my work laptop, also Windows 10, and there I tried it on the above three and Chrome and got the correct translation.

Any other haunted laptops out there?



  1. Philip Taylor said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 9:34 am

    Hard to know, unless Daniel can provide the actual URL that he offered to the Bing translator …

    [(myl) As described in the OP, he opened the provided Wikipedia URL in a browser for which Bing was the default page translator. I added underlining to the URL reference to make it easier to find.]

  2. Ross Presser said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 10:00 am

    Presumably this, the russian page on Броссар, Себастьян де.

    I also get the unwanted translation:


    "It's not going to be the last time. "It's not going to be the last time you likethat., ' ', ', ', ', '.

  3. Ross Presser said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 10:02 am

    For what it's worth, I get the bad result on both Chrome and Firefox from my work laptop. Haven't tried any other machines.

  4. Ross Presser said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 10:04 am

    Sigh. The comment I left that contained the links seems to have been eaten.

    I started with the ru.wikipedia.org page for Броссар, Себастьян де

  5. Daniel Sterman said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 11:22 am

    I'm glad to see at least two other people out there got the same result I did! When I discovered that it was laptop- rather than browser-dependent I started to worry I might have a virus. (Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility we all have the same virus…)

  6. Keith said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 11:55 am

    I pointed Bing Translator at that Russian page, and it was quite well translated until it got to the Legacy paragraph, then I saw the "Lovecraftian gibberish" described by Daniel Sturman.

  7. cameron said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 12:04 pm

    I also get the weird translation. Note that what it does is produce the weird English, followed by a line of Russian, untranslated from the original:

    "It's not going to be the last time. "It's not going to be the last time you likethat., ' ', ', ', ', '.

    Один из залов Национальной библиотеки носит его имя.

    That Russian that it doesn't deign to translate means something like "One of the halls in the national library is named after him".

  8. Daniel Sterman said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

    I just opened it on my wife's smartphone, and it also gives the weird translation – only it translates the header as "Heritage" rather than "Legacy".

    There definitely appears to be some sort of client-side code running as part of this translation software.

  9. John Swindle said,

    September 3, 2020 @ 7:21 pm

    Does Ross's second link in his first post, to translatetheweb.com, reliably produce the weird translation? If so, then isn't it a question of when that translator is invoked?

  10. Daniel Sterman said,

    September 4, 2020 @ 2:15 am


    Translatetheweb.com is owned by Microsoft, and (as far as I can tell) it's the source of the translation that Bing uses.

  11. John Swindle said,

    September 4, 2020 @ 3:47 am

    Daniel Sterman, thanks. I see now that I, like others, get different translations depending on which machine I use, in my case an Android tablet or a Windows 10 desktop, both using Chrome browser. Also the Android tablet gave different results on the first try vs subsequent tries. One version included "It'snot going to be agame" in the first paragraph. All versions call de Brossard a "dripmaster," which seems to be a trade name for an irrigation system. Haunting does seem the best explanation.

  12. Chas Belov said,

    September 7, 2020 @ 6:28 pm

    For some reason, I wasn't having much luck pasting the URL into the Translate the Web URL field. Tried in three browsers. Page inspection showed the field as disabled. If I removed that attribute, I got the same strange results as others report.

  13. Joseph Tournefort said,

    September 7, 2020 @ 10:04 pm

    I poked around at the code a bit, and it looks like Bing's translator is actually getting the phrase in question from attempting to translate from French. My guess is that when you invoke the translator in certain ways, it attempts to automatically detect what language to translate from, and for this page it's a mix of French and Russian. It looks like it goes section by section, since Wikipedia pages are pretty well segmented. I'd also guess that certain methods for invoking the translator might force a straight Russian translation instead.

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