George Friedrich Commerce and Till Owl-Mirror, really???? eBay and their asinine translation dildo

On my list of what’s wrong with eBay:

It started some years ago, in August 2015. So, I have permanent searches on eBay (okay, compliment due when compliment deserved, that’s a useful feature of eBay), by which I’ll receive daily email notifications about offers matching my search criteria. The search net isn’t perfect, it fishes A LOT of stuff that I’m not interested in (because I have to make the search criteria large enough not to miss anything), and I’m sure it leaves out some of the stuff I’m looking for, because seller didn’t list it in a way and with words that match my search criteria.

Anyway, all of a sudden I started receiving notifications for works by “Commerce”, or “Brooklet”. WTF???? So, yeah, the wise guys running the daily operations of eBay had thought it wise to implement an automatic translation device, that turned out to be the stupidest contraption in the history of mankind. The asinine application had never heard of “Johann Sebastian Bach” or “Georg Friedrich Handel”, so whenever it encountered “Bach” it translated to “Brooklet” and “Handel” to “Commerce”, and so forth. Let me give a few examples, just to show the magnitude of stupidity this whole thing is. Note that I receive the notifications in French translation, and I’m translating that to English.

Pianist Andras Schiff becomes Andras Boat, of course, and his fellow Hungarian, cellist Janos Starker, becomes Janos Mighty (should have been “Mightier”, in fact, “stark” = strong but “starker” = stronger. The French word that the translating device came up with isn’t “fort” (strong) but “puissant” (mighty). Jazz/progressive rock musician John Zorn is now John Anger.

Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, which music lovers know is translated into… Till Eulenspiegel, or possibly “The Merry Pranks of Till Eulenspiegel”, becomes “Till Owl Mirror” (yes: der Eule, the owl, der Spiegel, the mirror). “The Bartered Bride”? “Has sold married”.

Streichquartett (string quartet) = quartette’s strike (ouch!) and sometimes, who knows why, a French slang work (“tocard”) that I’d translate by “dunce” or “cretin” (I haven’t been able to figure out the “logic” of the translator on this one; has it to do with the Italian verb toccare, to touch, to tap, which famously gave the “toccata”?)

This one will be lost on English audiences, but Handel’s Water Music, which has since the beginings of mankind been translated to French as “Water Music”, becomes “l’eau musique”, something like “the music water” – nice concept, maybe that’s how the Arctic ocean sounded like when the Titanic was sunk and the music band was still playing.

Heinrich Schütz Weihnachtshistorie (“The History of Christmas”) = “Heinrich protect from historical Christmas” (yeah, “schützen”, auf Deutsch, means “to protect, to shield”)

Oh, and this one: the score to Bach’s Secular Cantata, originally listed as “Noten  J. S. Bach vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten Taschenpartitur”, which you may translate as “Score J.S. Bach United Discord of Quivering Strings pocket score” (see Wikipedia about that cantata, BWV 207), becomes “Notes Bach Kingdom of Discord Acceleration of Strings pocket”

Very poetic, in a nonsensical way, you might want to say. But VERY obnoxious when you are trying to undestand what is being sold. For instance, what do you make of this:

“Flyer Dutchmann piano excerpt with songing filling german”? Well, it is the machine’s translation of  “Wagner Fliegende Holländer Klavierauszug mit Singstimmen deutsch”, which in fact, if read by a human intelligence with some knowledge of music vocabulary, translates by “Wagner Flying Dutchman vocal score German”.

After some investigation, it appeared that the translation device was only functioning on eBay France, and only translated the listings originally in German. So, of course, I contacted them to report the problem and ask how I coud disable the damn thing. Uh-oh… go try and move a bureaucracy. Equip yourself with a strong jackhammer… and a lot of patience. No, while apologizing for any inconvenience, they went on to explain how the device was meant to make thing easier and clearer for the buyers! Yeah, like “Flyer Dutchmann piano excerpt with songing filling german”? They even had the nerve to respond: “please note that, in accordance with our guidelines, we cannot accept or take in account ideas or suggestions sent to us if we haven’t expressly sollicited them.” !!!!! I mean, years later, re-reading that still makes by jaw fall to the ground… “- Hi, Fire Department? Your own station is burning, do something! – Sorry, in accordance with our guidelines, we cannot accept or take in account ideas or suggestions sent to us if we haven’t expressly sollicited them. Good-bye!” On the other hand, I love the response where the eBay agent wrote:  “I understand perfectly sir, if I were in your place I’d react even more agressively than you did”! And she added “But what can I tell you? I can assure you that it is not in my perimeter, you can imagine that my first task is to respond to the members and even more, generate their satisfaction by responding favorably to their demands”. Okay, what can you add to that!!!?

A year later, in August 2016, with nothing changed, I vented my frustrations on an eBay forum that censored (“[bleep]”) parts of my message, not just the profanities (there were a few, like “bullshit”) but even the word “buffoons” (guess who I had in mind)… and any references to “Amazon” (!!! evidently a profanity for eBay). Still, after some insistence, I was told by an eBay agent that things couldn’t be changed (why? I don’t know, and the agent who gave me that answer probably didn’t either), but I could submit individual corrections. Yeah, like I had nothing else to do and hours to spend. I gave up, considered that I had better fights to fight. To this day, the problem persists.

Comments are welcome