Linguistics Puzzle (geocache puzzle)
January 30, 2014 10:12 PM   Subscribe

I am working on a puzzle that has to with linguistics. It has words in different languages and I have translated most of it. Some of the words didn't translate great with Google translate. I have gotten this out of the cache owner: "Yes, meaning can also have value. Perhaps not in English though. Or the words themselves." The value will be coordinates to ind the geocache.

Geocache Description:

Tar éis галдеж
(After Babel)- which is a book by George Steiner about linguistics.
Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí. Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw.
(Text can have over is as one meaning. Significance of these ___ certainly it place.

Les mots peuvent avoir plus d'une signification. Offensichtlich etwas über die Übersetzung wissen Sie, oder sind Sie gut mit den Google Translate App. Betydningen av disse ordene avgjør plasseringen. Ancak, yine de işin yarısı tamamlamak zorunda. Muistathan, kuten Ranger Boy sanoo: "Varokaa Red silakat".
( Words can have more than one meaning. You obviously know something about the translation or are you good with the Google translation App. The meaning of these words will determine the location. However you still have to complete half the job. Please keep in mind, such as, Ranger Boy says: "watch out for red herrings".)

There are pictures and numbers that I believe are the "red herrings". Any help would be appreciated.
posted by lobsters9494 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I first read "plasseringen" I thought of placement. I know some Scandinavian languages, though my Danish is better than my Norwegian which is what this looks like. So in addition to location, it could also be translated as "the placement" or maybe "the position" though not sure if that nuance suggests anything.

Have you tried looking at a map to see what happens if you 'travel' from country to country following the route of the changing languages through the text? Is there any pattern there?
posted by jardinier at 10:24 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

It is a bunch of different languages. The words in quotations are the english translation that I came up with. There has to be some way to get a location like this: N 43° 08.912 W 088° 14.614, it could be 43 08912 88 14614 or 08912 14614. These are the puzzle coordinates the real one is close by.
posted by lobsters9494 at 10:33 PM on January 30

I was told that I am looking at the solution since I translated, but I'm not seeing it.
posted by lobsters9494 at 10:36 PM on January 30

Yes, I recognize the different languages, I meant the one passage that is in Norwegian. I guess my thought, rephrased, is: are the languages arbitrary? Or do the choices and order represent something - for example in the second paragraph: French to German to Norwegian to Turkish to Finnish - and such.
posted by jardinier at 10:39 PM on January 30

Just to keep playing in hopes of sparking something, here are the sentence languages, if this is correct:

1. Irish, Mongolian
2. Afrikaans
3. Hungarian
4. French
5. German
6. Norwegian
7. Turkish
8. Finnish

Unless you count the first one as a title - then there is a title and then 7 sentences. Is the first one written that way, with the Irish and Mongolian and then English following, or is that your note?
posted by jardinier at 10:53 PM on January 30

The phrase "Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw" appears to have one word each in several different languages, at least to get the translation you have; the list of languages (according to google translate's detection) is
Haitian Creole
Basque (hitz = words )

I can't really make anything from that list, but if you have the full list of languages (and it may be word by word, although that's a little silly because many words occur in multiple languages..)... maybe you can make something from that list?

Another possibility: the phrases that are complete in one language in the second paragraph tell you which languages to choose from. Your goal is to figure out in the first paragraph which word is in each of these languages (e.g. French, German, Norwegian, etc).
posted by nat at 10:55 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

How funny, I didn't look beyond the first word! And I even speak Indonesian, so I should have recognized "itu." That's an interesting sentence. Just for more thinking play, here's a list with some language groupings - to try and think about relationships.

1. Irish, Mongolian (Goidelic, Mongolic)
2. Afrikaans (West Germanic)
3. Hungarian (Uralic)
Haitian Creole (a creole)
Albanian (Albanian Indo-European)
Basque (Basque isolate)
German (West Germanic
Indonesian (Austronesian lingua franca)
Hmong (West Hmongic branch of Miao languages)
4. French (Italic)
5. German (West Germanic)
6. Norwegian (North Germanic)
7. Turkish (Turkic)
8. Finnish (Finnic Uralic)
posted by jardinier at 11:07 PM on January 30

So, if you do a word-by-word in Google translate:

Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw.
Significance of these words certainly it place.

I suppose the assumption is that you're supposed to use Google translate and rely on English grammar. A better translation of "itu" would be "that" - contrasted with "ini" (this). But that may not matter here.

And I didn't pay attention to the sentence before it until nat brought it up - so it looks like this (in progress...):

Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí.

Text (many languages)
can (Chinese pinyin)
have (Javanese)
more than (Italian)
one (Azerbaijani)
meaning (Irish)
posted by jardinier at 11:18 PM on January 30

So, now we're looking at something more like this - which suggests that since you can't reasonably be expected to determine which language is intended by words like "tekst" which are the same in many languages - that the language name or origin or country of association might not matter. Hmmm...

1. Irish, Mongolian (Goidelic, Mongolic)
2. Many languages (multiple)
Chinese pinyin
3. Hungarian (Uralic)
Haitian Creole (a creole)
Albanian (Albanian Indo-European)
Basque (Basque isolate)
German (West Germanic
Indonesian (Austronesian lingua franca)
Hmong (West Hmongic branch of Miao languages)
4. French (Italic)
5. German (West Germanic)
6. Norwegian (North Germanic)
7. Turkish (Turkic)
8. Finnish (Finnic Uralic)
posted by jardinier at 11:21 PM on January 30

Which also equates to these values:

1st line (title): 2 words, 2 languages
2nd sentence: 8 words, 8 languages
3rd sentence: 7 words, 7 languages

4th sentence: 7 words, 1 language
5th sentence: 16 words, 1 language
6th sentence: 6 words, 1 language
7th sentence: 7 words, 1 language
8th sentence: 8 words, 1 language
posted by jardinier at 11:27 PM on January 30

the third word in the first line under your "Geocache Description" appears to be written in cyrillic. it would be pronounced in english "gal-dyezh", and while i took basic russian in high school and college, i don't know what it means, and i don't like using my character map on this box because when i drag cyrillic letters from the map to the outgoing text screen partially occluded by the map, the letters are frequently gone by the time i disappear the map...

"yes, meaning can also have value. perhaps not in english, though."

if energy has value, and meaning is derived from information, then all meaning has value, even if it is derived from false information. there is a minimum amount of energy required to set one bit of information in the memory of an ideal conventional system. kTln2.
posted by bruce at 12:10 AM on January 31

Are you sure the pictures and numbers are irrelevant? I wouldn't rule them out just yet.

The stuff about words having more than one meaning and getting you to focus on the words and languages could itself be the red herring! After all "red herring" has a double meaning - the literal and the idiom. All of the text that has gone before is a pointer to you to think carefully about what those particular words mean.

Can you readily determine whether the answer co-ordinates are going to have zeros in them? You may be able to test this by vaguely figuring out the outer boundaries of where the cache could be (proximate to the given co-ords and not too near another cache or in a lake or whatever) and seeing what the co-ords are. I'm saying this because if you expect to get zeros, then whatever method you use to convert numbers from words, you'll need to get zeros from it. This means that eg - it won't be the number of letters in the word, and probably not the old sum them values of the letters in the word (using a=1, b=2 etc).

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think that the different languages are the distraction. But I could be completely wrong about this.
posted by pianissimo at 12:13 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]

The Norwegian passage could be interpreted either as that the meaning of the words decides the placement of the cache or that the meaning decides the placement (order) of the words, or instructions or coordinates or what have you. If that's any use to you.
posted by Iteki at 12:17 AM on January 31

Can you readily determine whether the answer co-ordinates are going to have zeros in them?

I think this is important - and if the location is going to be anywhere within a few hundred miles of N 43° 08.912 W 088° 14.614 aka 08912 14614 - then then your code is going to need a zero value. Which means that anything tied to a language grouping number is probably not appropriate.

Any chance we could see a scan of the pictures and numbers you mention?
posted by rongorongo at 5:17 AM on January 31

A couple of pieces to the puzzle:

- "Bestimmt" is German for "determines", which clarifies the meaning of that sentence (especially as "hitz" seems indeed to be a form of the word "word(s)" in Basque).

- I'm puzzled by the words "is" and "as" in the 1st sentence. They just don't seem necessary (if the puzzlemaker was translating word by word to get the same sentence as later in French). Both words have multiple meanings in different languages.

- For some reason, the word "red" has been left untranslated in the Finnish sentence. It should be "punainen (singular) or "punaiset" (plural), or actually "punaisia" (plural partitive) if the rest of the sentence were grammatically correct. Seems like a possible clue to me, anyway. Btw, the RGB code for pure red is 255 0 0, maybe that could be a part of the coordinates.

I'm a geocacher myself but can't access the premium membership page of this cache. Is there any indication how far the cache is located from the starting point coordinates? Also, I think at least some of the pictures and numbers you consider to be red herrings are probably relevant. Can you at least describe them?

Oh, and Ranger Boy seems to be another geocacher in the area, in case someone was wondering what that referred to.
posted by sively at 5:18 AM on January 31

I think "meaning" could be the red herring here. Because: "Yes, meaning can also have value. Perhaps not in English though. Or the words themselves." So it is conflicting with this piece of info: "[...] I am looking at the solution since I translated [...]".
Did anyone check out the original, non translated words?

N 43° 08.912 => 2-letter word + 2-letter word + 3-letter word (or 2-letter word + 5-letter word)
W 088° 14.614 => 3-letter word + 2-letter word + 3-letter word (or 3-letter word + 5-letter word)
43 08912 => 2-letter word + 5-letter word
88 14614 => 2-letter word + 5-letter word
08912 14614 => 5-letter word + 5-letter word

Common codes are 1=a, 2=b, 3=c... or the phone key pad 1=a,b,c; 2=d,e,f...
Maybe this could help: words2numbers
posted by travelwithcats at 5:25 AM on January 31

Yes Ranger Boy is, and this is the kind of puzzle I'm used to from him. All the words in english that I have in parentheses is my translation and not on the cache page.

After the title and the first sentence there is a picture from the movie The Last Samurai which has to do with this a scene and these words are listed below it.
16:43 He'll be speaking the lingo in no time. You should hear him blather on in Blackfoot.

16:47 Really?

16:50 A fellow linguist? Oh, capital!

16:53 Come on, sir. A word or two in the savage tongue.

Then these numbers are repeated for 7 lines: 33830599503402

Then there is the last 5 sentences. And also under the encypted hint it has: ISBN 978-0898708349. (Which is The Ignatius Bible Revised Standard Version) And the background picture is a picture of the Tower of Babel
posted by lobsters9494 at 5:34 AM on January 31

The puzzle maker used an online translator to create that puzzle. The sentences are not grammatically correct anyway.

Looking at the words again, there are a few that are related to math:
bircə = 1
plus = +
une = 1
posted by travelwithcats at 5:41 AM on January 31

travelwithcats is on to some thing. Because the message I got from the cache owner went like this: Yes, meaning can also have value. Perhaps not in English though. Or the words themselves.
posted by lobsters9494 at 5:44 AM on January 31

Nope those are the only two words that seem to work there.
posted by lobsters9494 at 6:23 AM on January 31

It sounds like there's a lot of information that you didn't include in the original post - the full format of the information, the relationship between the parts, etc. could be important and nthing others who note that it's hard to say which part is the red herring actually.

Just for reference here is the passage from Genesis on the Tower of Babel from the RSV-CE, aka the Ignatius.
posted by jardinier at 6:54 AM on January 31

Yeah I was figuring the rest was the red herring. This is a tough one its been three days and no one has found the cache yet, so I would think it is still not solved. I feel that brain is about to fry from all the possibilities. The coordinates should be within a few miles of N 43° 08.912 W 088° 14.614
posted by lobsters9494 at 7:10 AM on January 31

It's possible that parts of the coordinates are in the text and others in the pic of The Last Samurai or in the referenced book.

This line from the picture has a 43 in it, but not sure if anything else is relevant: "16:43 He'll be speaking the lingo in no time. You should hear him blather on in Blackfoot."

The hint you got "Perhaps not in English though. Or the words themselves." [Emphasis mine] could also point to the picture or punctuation or the numbers - anything than the words really.

Basic question: how would "a few miles" change the coordinates? Would they still contain a zero?
posted by travelwithcats at 7:20 AM on January 31

Ok, this could be off track but the tower of Babel = stairway to heaven, which song contains lyrics about words having 2 meanings...
posted by pianissimo at 7:34 AM on January 31

Yeah the zero in 08.912 for example would still be there, it could possibly be 09, but ny bet is that the cache is located south in town so it should be 08.
posted by lobsters9494 at 8:02 AM on January 31

Ok, to sum things up for anyone still trying to figure this one out... If the cache is close by, what's already a given is that it'll be:
N 43° abcde
W 088° fghij

And your gut says that a = 0, followed by b = 8 or maybe 9. Correct?

I'm still thinking about the "as" in the 1st sentence. It means "axis" in several languages - as in the Cartesian coordinate system - which would give you the 0 you're expecting. I mean, at the axis, one of the values is always 0, right?

Another thing I thought of is that if you have 33830599503402 (14 characters) on 7 lines, there are 98 of them in total.

And I really believe that 25500 is the last part. "However you still have to complete half the job" implies that you get the first half of the coordinates (N) from the clues before that, and the latter half (W) follows. And that weird word Red in the middle of Finnish doesn't make any sense, unless it's intentional.

So that would lead us to...

N 43° 098de
W 088° 25500

There's still a bit missing, but I checked it already on the map and this would take you 6.6 miles from the starting coordinates. Too far to be plausible?
posted by sively at 1:19 PM on January 31

Going by "Words can have more than one meaning", I tried looking up alternate meanings on Wiktionary, which has meanings in multiple languages listed on a single page. This is what I got for the first few lines:

Tar éis галдеж
tar: Asturian — to be (like Spanish estar, it means "be" in the sense of be in a location or temporary state)
eis: Portuguese — here, in this place
tar éis: Irish — after
галдеж: Mongoloian — babel, clamor, din

To be in this place (babel / clamor / din)

(Maybe a hint to skip words without alternate readings?)

Both readings together: "To be in this place after babel".

Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí.
tekst: text, lyrics (lots of languages)
nénggòu: Mandarin — can, be able to
duwe: Dutch — push (inflected form)
oltre: Italian — further, beyond, up
is: Tok Pisin — east
is: multiple languages — Is (plural of the letter I)
as: Portuguese — the, to the
as: multiple Romance languages — ace (in card games)
as: Latin — unit
bircə: Azerbaijani — one
bri: Albanian — hill, slope

(text) (can) push further east to the (one) hill

another alternate reading is:

Text can have beyond Is [the letter I] unit one meaning.

Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw.
jelentősége: Hungarian — its importance, its significance (inflected form)
nan: ?? "what" in Japanese, "bread" in multiple languages, various other meanings
këtyre: Albanian — of these, to these (inflected form)
hitz: Basque — word
bestimmt: German — certain, determined
itu: Indonesian and Malay — the, that
chaw: Hmong — place

There are maybe two puns with English here: nan = none, and hitz = hits.

"Its significance what(?) of these word determined the place." / "Its significance none of these hits determined the place."

I can't get anything meaningful out of nan with meanings I can find.

Could "Red" in Red silakat, "Red herrings", be a kind of signature?
posted by nangar at 2:47 PM on January 31

New note from cache owner on the page: Please don't use any English when you pitch the ball.

Also he keeps saying: " That the answer is revealed by translating the words".
posted by lobsters9494 at 4:57 PM on January 31

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been told that my initial thought of the sentence above the picture holding the answer was right. Clue to use to figure it out now from cache owner is to think about the journey to be able to understand the sentences.

He posted these words on the cache page:
1st post: Sometimes on a long hike the prize is not the destination but the journey.
2nd post: Please don't use any English when you pitch the ball.

The sentence is: Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí. Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw.
posted by lobsters9494 at 5:33 PM on January 31

A few thoughts:

So you are expecting to find 10+ numbers in those two sentences?

Looking at the languages of the first sentence (Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí) again, we're moving from the Far East to Europe, which historically was known as the Silk Road.
The second sentence (Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw) seems to be moving countries in the opposite direction. The placement of a few countries seems a bit odd if we were to really travel that route, but that might be down to our translation.

I am also wondering about the hiking reference ("Sometimes on a long hike the prize is not the destination but the journey"). Is this a hint to mountains? He could have used a more neutral word.

Lastly, there are words that can be typed on the calculator. This way a zero would be included. See here.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:49 AM on February 1


Both sentences = 15 words. 43 08.912 + 088 14.614 = 15 numbers.
If you know that "tekst" = 4, "nénggòu" = 3, duwe = 0, oltre = 8 or 9 --- what has "jelentősége" to do with "tekst"? "Jelentősége" should equal zero as well. Also "nan" and "këtyre" would need to equal 8s and/or 9s.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:10 AM on February 1

This puzzle is way harder. It has been solved by another geocacher. I have been told by him this:

"Once you have translated the language, the results should be coherent and readable.That took me a bit, but it is critical. None of the starting words are English. Just need to use the line above the picture. ( Tekst nénggòu duwe oltre is as bircə brí. Jelentősége nan këtyre hitz bestimmt itu chaw.) Focus on the second's easier to see the west coordinates. Come back to the first sentence(north coordinates) later. (There are some tricks that could be throwing you.)
I also asked if I need to keep track of the languages? Answer: You are onto something with the languages.

I am working on it but nothing standing out yet.
posted by lobsters9494 at 7:01 PM on February 1

Okay, the first two languages in the second sentence are Hungarian and Haitian Creole. Both start with H, the eighth letter of the alphabet. You expect the longitude to start with 88. So looking at the languages you have, does 8812798 make sense? The second sentence could be 4309??19, assuming "tekst" is Danish or Dutch (looking at the list of languages available in Google Translate). Playing around with "is" and "as", I find "is" could be "more" in Galician or "also" in Hungarian, and "as" could be "than" in Afrikaans, which makes the sentence almost make sense. So 43097119 or 43098119?
posted by eruonna at 11:56 AM on February 3

Forgot to add: I'm assuming that for Javanese, J=10 means 0.
posted by eruonna at 11:59 AM on February 3

Yeah that is the west coordinates I came up with but the north(first sentence) there are 8 words. Two of the words need to be used together. Working on that right now.
posted by lobsters9494 at 7:12 PM on February 3

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