|portal → machine translation → babelfish.htm||
You'r deep inside searchlores
Arthur thought about this. "Ford," he said. "Yeah?" "What's this fish doing in my ear?" "It's translating for you. It's a Babel fish. Look it up in the book if you like." He tossed over The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then curled himself up into a foetal ball to prepare himself for the jump. At that moment the bottom fell out of Arthur's mind. His eyes turned inside out. His feet began to leak out of the top of his head. The room folded flat about him, spun around, shifted out of existence and left him sliding into his own navel. They were passing through hyperspace. "The Babel fish," said The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly, "is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish. Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God." "The argument goes something like this: 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.' "'But,' says Man, 'The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.' "'Oh dear,' says God, 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanished in a puff of logic. "'Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing. "Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his bestselling book Well That About Wraps It Up For God. "Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloddier wars than anything else in the history of creation."
One of the men, who had been standing slightly forward of the rest of the group and who might therefore have been their leader, stepped forward. His face was quiet and calm, almost serene. "Ugghhhuuggghhhrrrr uh uh ruh uurgh," he said quietly. This caught Arthur by surprise. He had grown so used to receiving an instantaneous and unconscious translation of everything he heard via the Babel Fish lodged in his ear that he had ceased to be aware of it, and he was only reminded of its presence now by the fact that it didn't seem to be working. Vague shadows of meaning had flickered at the back of his mind, but there was nothing he could get any firm grasp on. He guessed, correctly as it happens, that these people had as yet evolved no more than the barest rudiments of language, and that the Babel Fish was therefore powerless to help. He glanced at Ford, who was infinitely more experienced in these matters. "I think," said Ford out of the corner of his mouth, "he's asking us if we'd mind walking on round the edge of the village." A moment later, a gesture from the man-creature seemed to confirm this. "Ruurgggghhhh urrgggh; urgh urgh (uh ruh) rruurruuh ug," continued the man- creature. "The general gist," said Ford, "as far as I can make out, is that we are welcome to continue our journey in any way we like, but if we would walk round his village rather than through it it would make them all very happy." "So what do we do?" "I think we make them happy," said Ford.