Fun with Google Translate



Google Translate is actually pretty handy as an informal tool.

There have been times where I have wanted to have at least a partial understanding of something that I read in another language online, and Google Translate has helped me with that.

I’m also a little rusty with French, and Google Translate has helped to fill in some of my gaps.

But if you wrote something and wanted to have a professional translation of your writing into another language, well, as you will see in this article, that could result in some interesting consequences.


What I will do is type a variety of expressions in English.

I will copy and paste these expressions into Google Translate, and have them translated into a different language.

Then I will have them translated back into English.

(Isn’t this what everybody does when they feel like having some fun?)


We will start with a simple opinion in English. (As a person’s opinion, it is informal, not proper grammar.)

I strongly prefer slacks over blue jeans on the golf course.

I copied and pasted the above text into Google Translate.

I had the text translated from English to Chinese (traditional).


Next I copied the Chinese text, deleted the original English text, and pasted the Chinese text into Google Translate.

I really like the blue jeans on the golf course.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the opposite of the original statement.

Let’s see if we can find some good sentences to translate.


Input. (Imagine a far too clichéd romance novel.)

Meet Chloe, a blond bombshell dressed to the nines.

Translated to Russian.

Познакомьтесь с Хлоей, белокурой бомбой, одетой в пух и прах.

Back to English.

Meet Chloe, a blonde bomb dressed in lint and dust.

(Hey, maybe the novel would be better this way…)


Input. (The awful, Vogon variety.) I put all of this into a single line of text (with spaces in place of the line breaks).

How did I get into this bad romance

He is so handsome but too psycho

How much I wish I could turn back time

And not ride on his motorcycle

Translated to Hindi.

मैं इस बुरे रोमांस में कैसे आया वह इतना सुंदर है, लेकिन बहुत ही मनोहर है कि मैं चाहता हूं कि मैं अपनी मोटरसाइकिल पर वापस समय बदल सकता हूं और नहीं

Back to English.

How did I come to this bad romance

is so beautiful, but very handsome

that I want to change my time

on my motorcycle and not

(It started out so well, too.)

You could imagine that song lyrics are even better.


Input. Imagine that we’re making a very simple children’s book for beginning readers.

See Jeff. See Amazon. See Jeff run Amazon.

Translated to Latin.

Jeff videre. Vide Amazon. Jeff videre current Amazon.

Back to English.

Jeff further. Know Amazon. Jeff further current Amazon.

It’s interesting what a difference the middleman makes. When I tried using Japanese, it came out almost perfectly.


I bought a bicycle for my daughter on Amazon last year.

It was difficult to find the right color in the right price range.

When I finally did, there were several 5-star reviews with names that seemed indicative of a certain language (I won’t say which).

But there were a few 1-star reviews claiming that the instructions were virtually impossible to read.

Well, I have a Ph.D. in physics, so I figured I could assemble a bicycle myself.

My family had a blast reading the instruction manual. I’ve never read anything so funny!

It’s like someone typed the instructions in another language (still not saying!) and used Google Translate to turn them into English.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that’s what actually happened.

Let me share a few goodies from these instructions. I took care to copy all of the typos correctly, including the punctuation issues.

  • By now, there should not any touching between bicycle and your body.
  • The leg–length of a rider should be at least 2.54cm.
  • As photo shows,put the stem into head tube,adjust proper depth,before tighten stem binder bolt(not less than 18N.m)adjust handlebar perpendicular to forward direction,then tighten four bolts on aluminum cap orderly
  • If adjust slightly loose the adjusting nut and bolt, then lock nut. If adjust largely, loose nut ( as pic ), the loose or fasten brake line, then fasten nut.
  • BBzxle adjustment: loosethe left lock nut of BB axle adjust the space between “stationary cone” and “bearing and retainer” to the smallest,the tighten the nut
  • Do not use this bicycle as a transport facilities.

I kid you not. (I wish I were.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Is a book worth more than…?

Book Worth


How much money do you spend on…?

one roll of toilet paper

a box of screws

a candy bar

popcorn or soda at the movies

one greeting card

tipping a waitress


baby formula

a pack of underwear


a gallon of gasoline

one dozen eggs

garbage bags

a book of stamps

vitamins and supplements

a cup of coffee


hair dye

a pack of condoms

diet pills

a book that becomes your focus and source of joy or inspiration for weeks

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Self-Publishing Jokes


1. How do you get an indie author to wash your dishes every day for a month?

Make a deal to buy his book at the end of the month.

Please, please, please.

I’m begging you.

Please buy my book.

2. Why did the self-published author cross the street?

To tell anyone and everyone about his book.

Extra, extra.

Read all about it.

I wrote a book.

3. What’s black, white, and slightly red?

Thousands of self-published books.

Does that book really have…

a typo in the title?

4. Why does an indie author use his phone a dozen times during dinner?

To check his stats.

What? No sales in the last 45 minutes?

Not even a view on my blog?

How can that be?

5. What causes a depressed indie author to jump up to cloud nine?

A great review.

I loved this book so much…

I wish I could marry it and

bear its children.

6. What sends an enthusiastic indie author into a state of depression?

A bad review.

This book would have been better if…

the author had taped pages from

a dictionary to a wall and thrown

darts at it to choose the words.

7. What kind of review does a self-published author feel is unfair?

One with fewer than three stars.

“** 2 stars. Would have been great, but…”

But, but, but…

Why does there always have to be a BUT?

That BUT stinks!

8. What takes months of hard work to build, yet can be destroyed by uttering a few stupid words at the wrong time?

An indie author’s reputation.

You obviously don’t know how to read a book!

9. Why do authors self-publish?

Because they can.

I think I can, I think I can.

See. I just did.

10. You might be an indie author if… you’re more likely to know your book’s current sales rank than the date of your anniversary.

Sorry, honey. You know I’ve been busy.

But look how many books I just sold!

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Seriously, though…

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know I’m an avid supporter of self-publishing.

Indie publishing is an art, but it’s also a business. Readers expect quality books for the money and time they invest in them.

Let us remember that there are, in fact, many excellent self-published books out there.

If we can’t laugh at ourselves, what gives us the right to laugh at anyone else?

So I offer this little dose of self-publishing humor, perhaps mixed with a bit of realism, so we might laugh at a few jokes, remember to smile when we get frustrated, and strive to improve while enjoying the experience.

Chris McMullen

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Golf Joke (featuring King Arthur, Merlin, and Tiger Woods)

Golf Hole

King Arthur is bored, so Merlin brings him to the 21st century for a round of golf.

They come to a long par 5. It’s a dogleg left, wrapping around the driving range.

Merlin tees off first. He takes the safe route, hitting his ball right down the fairway.

Hoping to take a shortcut and reach the green in two, King Arthur aims his drive across the corner of the driving range.

Unfortunately, the shot comes up short and his golf ball winds up inside the driving range.

Merlin says, “Come on, Arthur, just hit a safe shot down the middle.”

“No way,” replies King Arthur. “If Tiger Woods can cut this corner, so can I.”

So King Arthur gives it another try. Again, his shot comes up short, ending up in the driving range.

Merlin repeats his advice to just play it safe.

But King Arthur insists that he can cut the corner just like Tiger Woods.

Once again, King Arthur’s drive winds up in the driving range.

Merlin hands King Arthur a suit of armor. He tells King Arthur to go retrieve his golf balls.

A golfer on an adjacent hole happens to pass by Merlin in search of his own golf ball, when he sees a knight in shining armor wandering through the driving range.

Upon seeing this ridiculous image of a knight walking through the driving range, the golfer asks Merlin, “Who does that guy think he is? King Arthur?”

Merlin promptly replies, “Nope. He thinks he’s Tiger Woods.”

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Notes: This is a little twist on a classic golf joke involving Jack Nicklaus, Jesus Christ, and Moses. I got the inspiration when I lost a ball in the driving range and my dad suggested that I could retrieve my ball if only I had a suit of armor handy.

Self-Publishing Is Like Golf


Self-Publishing Is Like Golf

Front Nine:

  1. Both seem easy until you try them. You think you’re gonna make a hole-in-one the first time out on the golf course. You think you’re going to sell 100,000 books your first year. Whoa! Where’s that easy button when you need it? Reality check in aisle three.
  2. One little mistake and you can look pretty silly. Great big swing… ball goes almost nowhere. Oops! Did I just do that? No, it was a practice swing. Honest! Misspelled the title. Three whole pages in italics. Paragraph gone missing. Page numbers out of order. Feel like crawling under a rock now?
  3. The easiest things can be the most frustrating. Miss a two-foot putt? Whiff the ball? Try not to break your club. Misspell your name? Accidentally upload the wrong file? Don’t smack your forehead too hard.
  4. There is always a silver lining. You can have 17 miserable holes, but if you get one birdie, it makes your day, it brings you back to the course. Even if you hit 100 miserable shots, you’re bound to have one good one, so that even your worst rounds leave something positive to provide encouragement. Whether your self-publishing venture seems like a success or failure, there must be something good you can take out of it. If nothing else, you’re a published author. You can see your book in print. Your first book is a learning experience. Kind of like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. Infested with crocodiles. Hungry crocodiles.
  5. Mulligans are tempting. It’s easy to shank your teeshot on the first hole, and tempting to start over by taking a mulligan. It’s hard to nail that first book, too. Don’t worry too much. Pen names can help with that.
  6. You’re expected to observe proper etiquette. Don’t talk while your opponent is swinging. Don’t walk in your opponent’s line. Don’t spam your friends with repeated advertisements for your book. Don’t pester your ex-girlfriends for reviews.
  7. You can spend a ton of money that won’t necessarily help. Seven bucks for one ball that might not last more than one shot. A few hundred bucks on one club. Thousands on equipment. Hundreds more to dress like a golfer. The shot might look ugly, but you’ll look great on the course. You can spend hundreds on a cover, hundreds on editing, thousands on marketing. But if the content reads like a slice in the water hazard, it could be a book that looks great, yet doesn’t sell. Except to your mom.
  8. There is a ton to learn. It takes time and patience. Lessons can help, if the instructor knows what he’s doing. Even if you receive great advice, it’s easy and common to go against it. Because you’re the one newbie who isn’t going to make any mistakes, right?
  9. Out of bounds hurts. In golf, it costs you a stroke and distance (and a seven-dollar ball). There are boundaries in self-publishing, too. Like not commenting on all your reviews, telling your fans whether you wear boxers or briefs (maybe this is one time when telling is better than showing!), promoting your book on your competition’s blog, or reviewing your own book. You will get caught and the penalties will be severe. We’re talking tar and feathers.

Back Nine:

  1. You must clean up your mess. When you take a divot that goes further than the ball, you must repair the real estate. When it takes five shots to get out of the bunker, as an added bonus, you get to rake your mess. When you discover typos in your book, whether it’s selling or not, you fix them. It’s just the proper thing to do. Like covering a puddle with your new leather jacket so a woman you don’t know can walk across the street without getting her feet soaked.
  2. All golfers, golf-courses, books, and authors are not created equal. Some courses are much easier than others. Some golfers are much better than others. Some books have wider appeal than others. Some authors have more talent or experience than others. But it can still be fun for everyone to play the game. And when it isn’t fun, you get to exercise your vocabulary of four-letter words. All too often.
  3. There are rules to be followed. On the course, a marshal looks for signs of slow play, un-raked sand traps, and high heels on the greens. A rulebook dictates how to determine relief and penalties. Competitors attest your score. Retailers decide what can or can’t be published. Amazon determines what is or isn’t acceptable behavior. Yes, the rules do apply to you.
  4. Luck is involved. The ball doesn’t always bounce the way you’d expect. Sometimes it skips across the pond. Other times it hits a sprinkler in the middle of the fairway and rolls out of bounds. A great book can get a lousy review right off the bat. Or the right person can fall in love with your book and tell hundreds of people about it. Or your boss can discover you’ve been moonlighting as an author.
  5. Never fear, help is near. You can have a caddie carry your bag, help you choose the right club, walk off the yardage, tell you which way the putt breaks. Experienced authors can help you with formatting, publishing tips, marketing advice, which finger to pick your nose with.
  6. Practice can help. Hit a bucket of range balls. Spend time on the putting green. Write, write, and write some more. Read, read, and read more, too. And when nothing seems to help, maybe try some of that advice you’ve been ignoring. You know, the advice that requires doing hard work. But not that advice promising amazing results with super shortcuts. That’s the kind of advice where you pay hundreds of dollars for someone to toss you into a dumpster. And then you try it again because it didn’t work out the first time.
  7. Golf and self-publishing are both spectator sports. There is a gallery in golf to watch the pros, and millions of viewers on t.v. to support the sport. Authors have readers. A pro has a fan base in the crowd to support him. Authors have small followings, too. Whoa, dude! You’re, like, famous now!
  8. Starting out, you have a ton of anxiety for no good reason. On the first tee, you’re highly visible. People on the putting green, at the driving range, in the clubhouse, pulling up in the parking lot, or walking by can see your shot. Why do you have all those butterflies? It’s not like your name is Jack Nicklaus. You’re not expected to drive the ball 350 yards down the middle of the fairway. All those butterflies show up when you press that publish button, too. You don’t even have a gallery yet.
  9. Natural talent and years of hard work can pay off big time. You could become a scratch golfer. You could finally become a bestseller. Then, of course, you’ll meet that perfect someone and drift off into the sunset.

Nineteenth Hole:

  • Whether you finish a round of golf or a book, you deserve a little time to celebrate. If you make a hole-in-one or become a bestseller, the drinks are on you. Whether you can afford it or not.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen


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How to Kill Your Book Sales

Kill Sales

The Problem

Sales are going along steadily. Then you get a sudden urge to limit your income.

  • Maybe your spouse is spending too much money, and this will provide a valuable lesson.
  • Perhaps you’re worried about paying too much in taxes.
  • It might be that you want to eliminate the headache of what to do with all that extra cash.

Whatever the reason—and I bet it’s a good one—you want to kill your sales.

If you’re an author or publisher, you came to the right place to learn how to do it.

Following are several possible solutions.

(1) Naked Cover

No, not naked people, a naked cover. (Though if you wrote a book on conservative Christian values, naked people on your cover might work, too.)

What’s a naked cover? It’s a plain white cover with the title and author name written on a tiny font so that you can barely see them—like the one below.

Thirty years from now naked covers will become the new trend, and you’ll be complaining, “Hey! That was my idea!”

Naked Cover

(2) Toga Party

Edit your book so that customers think, “That’s Greek to me.” Literally: Pay a translation service to rewrite your book in Greek, then upload the Greek file in place of the English one.

However, if a large portion of your target audience actually speaks Greek, maybe you should try Egyptian hieroglyphics instead.

(3) Pure Jibberish

Change your blurb so that it’s completely unintelligible. For example, you might rewrite it in Morse code, using burps and hiccups in place of dits and dahs. For example, it might start out something like this:

Burp hiccup hiccup. Burp burp burp burp. Hiccup burp hiccup hiccup.

Hiccup burp burp. Burp burp. Hiccup burp burp.

Hiccup burp hiccup hiccup. Hiccup hiccup hiccup. Burp burp hiccup.

Hiccup burp burp burp. Hiccup hiccup hiccup. Hiccup! Burp burp burp burp. Burp! Burp hiccup burp?

On the downside, your blurb might make perfect sense to drunk or buzzed shoppers. But there is always the hope that they will return their books after they recover from their hangovers.

(4) Insult to Injury

Insult your reviewers. Of course, you have to sign on with an account where you use your real name so that everyone knows that you are, indeed, the author.

Unfortunately, you can’t just drop F-bombs in the comments. Otherwise, Amazon may remove your comments and this will lose its effectiveness.

No, you must be clever. Insult your customers in such a way that they feel, “Why, I never!” But do it in such a way that your comments don’t appear to violate the review guidelines.

Perhaps something like, “Thank you for taking the time to leave that glowing, five-star review. I’m surprised that someone with a pea-sized brain was able to comprehend my literary genius.”

Some people don’t read the comments, so you have to go all out. Comment on every review, from one to five stars. Leave 300 or so comments after each review. When customers see that each review has hundreds of comments, that may draw their interest.

Go to every customer discussion forum you can, make it crystal clear who you are and how to find your book, and insult the daylights out of everybody there. That will attract more interest in your reviews, and, hopefully, add hundreds of one-star reviews to your product page.

Though some customers may feel pity for you and buy your book anyway.

(5) Haywire

Create a formatting nightmare as follows:

  • Place your cursor in the middle of a paragraph and encourage your toddler to play with the keyboard for a few minutes.
  • Indent your paragraphs from the right side.
  • Align your text so that it’s ragged left. (See the image below.)
  • Rotate an occasional page 90 degrees. Don’t worry if part of the text gets cut off.
  • Double space every other page.
  • Use italics, boldface, underline, and strikethrough (all four at once) on an entire chapter. Preferably Chapter 1, so it shows on the Look Inside.
  • Add dialog tags to every word of dialog. For example: John said, “Good,” then said, “morning,” and added, “Jane.” Then John said, “How,” to which he added, “are,” and finally, “you?” Jane began her reply, “I’m,” and ended it with, “miserable.”
  • Insert a random watermark, like the word REJECTED, onto every page of the book. (Find an example below.)
  • Hold down the Shift key and press Enter after every heading so it expands to fill the margins.
  • Cut your pictures in half horizontally. Paste the top half on one page and the bottom half on the following page.
  • Vomit on the floor, take a high-resolution picture of it, scan the image, and insert it in your book immediately following the copyright page. (If you receive an invitation to post that page of your book on the wall of an art museum… well, then, maybe your book was just destined to sell after all. Stop fighting fate.)

Kill Sales 2



Good Luck!

Sorry, satisfaction is not guaranteed. You should have read the fine print before you initiated action.

(Of course, if you want to be boring, you could just hit the button to unpublish your book, but that would be like cheating. Show some ingenuity!)

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

If Reading Were a Spectator Sport…

Just Read It

Imagine if reading were a big-time spectator sport like boxing or football:

  • Nerds would be the jocks.
  • The most popular slogan would be, “Just read it.”
  • Common advice would include, “Keep your eye on the text.”
  • Franchise teams would have names like the Chicago Verbs, Denver Hyphens, Los Angeles Chapters, Mississippi Twains, Dallas Texters, London Haiku, and Philadelphia Lyrical Wonders.
  • Fans would come to the big event shirtless and with words written across their chests and cheeks.
  • Every tail-gating party would feature poetry recitations.
  • The only injuries trainers would need to attend to would be eye soreness and backaches.
  • Close plays would be shown again in slow motion on Instant Readplay.
  • The umpire would shout, “Read Words,” at the beginning of every game.
  • The big game at the end of the season would be called the World Sentences.
  • Instead of people spending $100 to watch two guys beat their brains out for several minutes and 99 cents to read a book for many hours, thousands of spectators would pay hundreds of dollars to watch their favorite teams compete as readers for a few hours.
  • Participants would be called acathletes.
  • Acathletes would earn millions of dollars to show off their amazing reading skills.
  • Teens would dream of going on dates with the top acathletes.
  • Coaches would earn good money to teach valuable reading skills.
  • Publishers and bookstores would sponsor the teams, adding their logos to the jerseys.
  • Stores would sell expensive jerseys featuring authors, books, and acathletes.
  • At home people would watch the big event on giant e-reader screens.
  • Kids would spend their free time practicing their reading skills and would dream of becoming talented readers when they grow up.
  • People would think, “We sure have come a long way since the day of the gladiator.”

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Educators have permission to freely copy part or all of this list entitled “If Reading Were a Spectator Sport…” for non-commercial purposes in order to help promote the spirit of reading.

You Might Be a Writer if…


You might be a writer if…

  1. Some of your best ideas were originally written on napkins, Kleenex, or toilet paper.
  2. You wake up at three in the morning and sneak out of bed to spend a couple of hours alone with your computer.
  3. When people act like jerks, you appear to handle it maturely, then secretly fashion characters after them to exact your revenge.
  4. You pull over to the side of the road a few times each week to jot down ideas for your book.
  5. A family member interrupts your work to ask you a simple question and you turn into a screaming lunatic.
  6. The most fulfilling conversations you have are between you and your imaginary muse.
  7. When your lucky underwear really stinks, friends know you’ve been fortunate not to get any bad reviews for several weeks.
  8. You log into your publishing account while you’re eating lunch to check on your royalties.
  9. In the middle of the night, you wake up sweating with an irrational fear that some discovered your secret pen name.
  10. You routinely turn down invitations to parties in favor of working on your book.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Is This a List of Stupid Questions?

Question 2

  1. What kind of fool would ever ask this question?
  2. Would anyone be foolish enough to answer this question?
  3. Why can’t you have your cake and eat it, too?
  4. Would you like some mustard for your ice-cream sundae?
  5. For crying out loud, how else would you cry?
  6. Which way did you go, George?
  7. What do you say after you ask, “Are we there yet?” and your father replies, “Yes,” although you clearly aren’t?
  8. Do you, answer, take this question to be your lawfully wedded partner, for better or for worse, till death do you part?—that is the question.
  9. You do realize that this isn’t a yes-no question, don’t you?
  10. Does a question really need to end with a question mark.
  11. This sentence, disguised as a question, is confusing, perhaps, to you.
  12. Are you you?
  13. Am I I?
  14. If a bus has 28 passengers, 6 get on and 3 get off, then 4 get on and 5 get off, then 2 get on and 9 get off, and you’re doing the math right now, why didn’t you wait to find out what the question would be before you bothered?
  15. How stupid would it be to ask this question twice?
  16. How stupid would it be to ask this question twice?
  17. What is the meaning of multiple question marks???????
  18. Is this question really loud?!!!!!!!
  19. Will you get upset if I tell you that this question really isn’t a question?
  20. Can you believe someone actually wrote this?
  21. How many more of these questions will you read?
  22. What makes a question smart?
  23. Why ask why?
  24. Why not ask why?
  25. Why ask, “Who cares?” when you don’t care who cares?
  26. When will this list be over?
  27. Did you really just waste your time reading this list of stupid question?
  28. If you leave a comment, will the reply be yet another stupid question?
  29. Is this work copyrighted © 2014 by Chris McMullen?
  30. Should we throw in another question just because?

Comma Chameleon


Comma, comma, comma, chameleon.

Such a subtle separator can disguise meaning.

“Let’s eat, everyone,” sounds rather inviting.

“Let’s eat everyone,” sounds cannibalistic.

, , , , ,

Comma, comma, comma, chameleon.

Such a subtle mark can affect the pace.

“The rabbit with broken legs limped home,” sounds quick.

“The rabbit, with broken legs, limped home,” sounds slow.

, , , , ,

Comma, comma, comma, chameleon.

Such a subtle mark can hold so much power.

“My mom said her husband is crazy,” means one thing.

“My mom, said her husband, is crazy,” means another.

, , , , ,

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

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