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It's the Gospel according to kittah

The Lolcat Bible Translation Project is out to rewrite the Good Book in its own brand of kitschy kitty-speak.

December 16, 2007|Charlie Amter | Times Staff Writer

"Oh my, they oppended nuther sealz there wuz big ground shaky. Teh sunz got all darky and teh moonz wuz bluudy." (Revelation 6)

And that's how the world will end . . . for cats, anyway, according to a translated passage from the Book of Revelation at Lolcatbible.com.

Sure, the Internet has more than proven itself as an invaluable tool for research, communication and business. Still, sometimes the best features of the Web are the most banal -- namely those that let you kill time online while at work or school. Perhaps no other online project of the moment is greater testament to this than the Lolcat Bible Translation Project ( www.lolcatbible.com).

Thanks to thousands of slacking office workers, procrastinating students and cat lovers worldwide with fast DSL connections at the ready, over 30% of both the New Testament and Old Testament have been translated into "lolcat" speak, a.k.a. "lolspeak." It's based on the popular Internet meme and subsequent diversionary website Lolcat.com (and, lately, the even more popular Icanhascheezburger.com), where users upload pictures of their pets with embedded words in a "cute" cat-speak (example: "um, hai, yur home early!").

And while the Bible has been translated before into Net-bred English variants (most notably an ebonics version of the Good Book), the Lolcat Bible Translation Project aims to be the first Bible a cute kitten might comprehend.

"To translate the lolcat Bible right, you have to put it in terms of what a cat would understand," said 28-year-old UC Irvine graduate student Ramie Becker, who just started working on Ezekiel 17. "So if you are trying to translate a passage that talks about tents in the desert, a cat has probably never seen that . . . but a cat has seen, like, a sofa."

The results of passages already translated into lolcat are hilarious to those familiar with the pidgin language, which is rife with intentional misspellings and syntax errors. To wit, the entry for Genesis I reads: "Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem. Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz."

This, of course, makes little sense to those unfamiliar with the idiomatic expressions and iconic cat pictures that circulate online and are known to lolcat freaks nationwide.

But to Becker, a cat owner who grew up reading the Bible as a Mennonite, swapping out "Ceiling Cat" for "God" is a no-brainer. (Ceiling Cat references a popular picture of a cat peering from a hole in someone's ceiling, predating lolcat.com and icanhascheezburger.com).

"The better translators incorporate as many inside jokes from across the lolcat cultural sphere as they can," she said. "If you can figure out how to use those in your passage, then you are doing the best translation work out there."

For those who need help, a "How to speak lolcat" primer is available at Lolcatbible.com, and there is even a lolcat translator tool at www.speaklolcat.com ("I hope you have a happy New Year" becomes "I hope u has happeh New Yer," according to the online translator).

But the man behind the Lolcat Bible Translation Project relies mostly on people such as Becker instead of "newbies" who require the translator tool to finish translation of his online Bible.

"Large chunks are still missing -- it's an ongoing effort," said Martin Grondin, the Massachusetts-based owner of the community project.

The 23-year-old, who started lolcatbible.com in July, hopes to have the entire New Testament done by the end of next year but admits it's a challenge to stay on top of all the verses coming in from around the world.

"There have been quite a few visitors from Canada, the U.K. and Norway this month," he said. And while he can't edit each entry, he does look at much of what is uploaded to the site in conjunction with trusting the community of cat lovers who rely on a Wikipedia-style collective editing system.

"For now, it's self-policing," he said. "I try not to interject as much and try and stay hands-off in terms of quality [of the entries]. When we fill it in more, I'll look more into the quality of the text itself. A lot of it has been very well done, though."

Grondin, who curiously says he currently doesn't have any cats, can thank obsessed kitten lovers such as Becker for that. The graduate student tries to follow the guidelines put forth on lolcatbible.com (example of one of the guidelines: "Cats have short attention spans. Use short sentences, and feel free to skim the more tedious bits, such as lists of "begats") religiously.

"I was raised Christian," she said. "The lolcat Bible, to me, is especially funny. For people who weren't raised knowing passages from Sunday school, I don't know if they would find it as funny as I do . . . but as a cat lover, I find it hysterical."

And while some Christians surely find the lolcat Bible objectionable, it's hard to find fault with a Bible even cats can get into.

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