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Author Topic: Garbled in translation
snopes
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Comment: This is a classic and famous (I think) Mistranslation, but I
can't comment on the veracity.

During the World War (don't know which one) a British message was sent
"Send re-inforcements, we're going to advance". It was heard as "Send
three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance".

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Well, it might have been interpreted as some kind of code, so whoever picked it up thought it was important to write down exactly what he thought he heard.

I doubt it's real, though. If you are asking for re-enforcements, you would probably be more specific about what you need, why you need it, when you need it and how long you need it.

--------------------
/Troberg

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Felessan
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I'm pretty sure that the original legend was supposed to be set in WW1.

The legend was used in an ad for a telco some years ago.

The private delivers the garbled message to HQ, to be greeted with laughter; at the end of the ad, the private hands the reply to his CO, who reads out the answer in disbelief; "HQ want to know if it's... black tie?"

--------------------
You fool! That's not a warrior, that's a banana!
- a surreal moment in a role-playing game

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YudanTaiteki
Deck the Malls


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I heard this as "Send reinforcements, the enemy is advancing on the right flank" eventually changed to "Send three or four cents, Annie is dancing on wet planks" -- this was in a children's joke book but it showed the steps of corruption through the transmission of the message as well. (I'm surprised I remember this!!)
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Mycroft
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Well known in UK, and I believe the story is usually told as pre WWI. Basically used as a warning about relying on verbal communication. There is also a party game called Chinese Whispers where you arrange people in a line ans pass a message along the line by whispering from person to person. Message that final person gets usually bears no relation to the original.
(For those not in the UK three and fourpence is a perfectly acceptable term for a specific sum of money)

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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"Was" a perfectly acceptable term for a specific sum of money, you mean - three shillings and fourpence.

Yes, this is often used as an example of a garbled telegram in the UK, and since military communication was beyond telegrams by WWII, and mostly even by WWI, it has to predate WWI.

(edit) I mean that the story would only make sense WWI or earlier, and WWI is a stretch, and so unless it was made up wholesale at some point, it must predate WWI. And if it was made up wholesale it wasn't all that recent either.

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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It's listed as a "famous Chinese Whisper" in several places:

Some whispers and their metamorphoses have become so famous that everyone knows them...

"Send three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance"(or, Translating the Latin. And the German. And the ...) (That site assumes it's such a well known example that it doesn't need explanation)

Communication Programme 4 - somebody uses it as an example.


It could never really have happened; not sure who first thought of it though...

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