The Babel Message: Updates, Mea Culpas, Errors and Corrections
Inevitably, given the sheer number of languages in the book, it was difficult to spot errors. Feel free to contact me if you spot something and I will post corrections here.
Kinder Joy confusion
This isn’t a linguistic error but one concerning The Manuscript: In the book I claim that Kinder Joys (the Kinder Egg cousin made safe for US and other markets) do not contain The Manuscript. I based this on a Kinder Joy I bought in 2020. However, I recently (early 2022) found a Manuscript inside a Kinder Joy. I don’t know whether this is a recent addition or whether the one I bought in 2020 was anomalous.
An update on Munegàscu/Monégasque
In Chapter 13 of the book, I conduct an experiment in translating the Message into 3 languages in as short a time as possible, without knowing any of the language in advance. One of these languages was Munegàscu (or Monégasque), the language of Monaco. My translation was as follows:
ATENÇIUN, lese e cunservà: Giüghetu non adatáu per fiyoei suta 3 ane. E peçe picenine pureressu iesse avalà o inalà.
Unfortunately, I could not find a speaker of the language to check the translation. Since the book was completed though, I managed to obtain a translation from Dominique Salvo:
A mistake in Syriac and Modern Assyrian Aramaic
Nicholas Al-Jeloo provided translations into Eastern and Western variants of Classical Syriac and Modern Assyrian Aramaic:
I included the Western variants in the book, however, there was a mistake in my transcription. This will be corrected in the ebook and subsequent editions of the hard copy.
A Kazakh mistake
The list of languages on the Manuscript on page xxv in the hardback excludes Kazakh.
A tiny error on the cover
The Italian message on the cover should read ‘ATTENZIONE, leggere e conservare’ but the final ‘e’ has been left out in ‘conservare’. [Thanks to @terminologia on Twitter for pointing this out]
A tiny mistake in Welsh
Ian Parri emailed me to point out what he called ‘a tiny mistake’ in the Welsh Message:
The second sentence should read: “Mae yna ddarnau bach y gellir eu mewnanadlu neu lyncu”. The “eu” refers to the plural possessive inferred in ‘ddarnau bach’ (small parts), while the “ei” in the book would be in the singular.
Of course this could simply be a typo introduced by me, rather than the original translator, Owen Shiers!
Ian also pointed out:
It is actually fairly common to see food and drink bearing labels wholly or partly in Welsh, and occasionally clothing, I’m glad to say. And as a translator, I recall being contracted to translate into Welsh one of those side-effects disclaimer sheets pharmaceutical companies insert into their packs of drugs. I’ve yet to be approached, however, by Ferrero!
That said, Ian did agree with me the products for sale across the UK or internationally rarely, if ever, carry Welsh.
A reader, ‘Emma C’, pointed out that the first word in the Czech Message in the book and on the cover should be UPOZORNĚNÍ, with an acute accent over the final ‘I’
There are some errors in the book that are in fact errors in the warning message Manuscript itself. I point out some of them in the book and discuss them further as well as listing others on this page.
Although not errors as such, there are some omissions in the book that I noticed too late to include in the final version:
- My main oversight was that I should have included the Uzbek and Kyrgyz Messages in the book, given that I made such a big deal out of collecting the ‘set’ of former Soviet Union Messages. I have rectified this in the list of Messages on this website.
- In the book, I stated that I wasn’t aware of encountering ‘Altabash’ – the word with which I started in creating my own language in chapter 14 – before. However, after the book was finished I did come across ‘Atbash’, which is a Hebrew cypher found in the Bible. It vaguely rang a bell so maybe I had come across it before and I drew on it unconsciously? I guess I can never be sure.
- After the book came out, I came across a 2011 discussion on a conlang forum that seemed to prefigure my project. It includes some translations of the warning message into a variety of conlangs. Some of them are not in my collection but I am not going to add them as the discussion is long dormant.
Have you spotted an error in the book. Feel free to contact me to point it out!