Somehow my email response got replaced with a foreign language
February 27, 2017 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I responded to an email using my gmail account on my Kindle Fire. The recipient responded that she wasn't sure the email was for her because it was in a foreign language. When I looked at her response email, the text of my email was now replaced with a language I don't recognize and can't figure it out using Google Translate. I've pasted part of the message inside:

Is this message:
A.) gibberish?
B.) My original message translated into another language?
C.) Someones email that somehow got swapped with mine in some kind of gmail glitch?
D.) Should I be worried about the email security on my Kindle?

*my original email message was setting up a meeting at a coffee shop.

Portion of replaced message
posted by victoriab to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This message is definitely gibberish and appears to be the result of some encoding errors. The characters that appear are Chinese characters interspersed with Korean, Arabic and random Wingding-like graphics, the sum of which doesn't correspond to any real writing system whatsoever. (It is 100% neither intelligible Chinese nor intelligible Korean.)
posted by andrewesque at 8:10 AM on February 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

That is a relief. Thank you!
posted by victoriab at 8:17 AM on February 27, 2017

I have definitely seen this kind of output when one side is ASCII and the other side insists on reading the text as Unicode.
The recipient might have a problematic email client, or there could have been a random unicode character in the middle of ASCII text (like -- ugh -- "smart quotes") that threw something off.

You have nothing to worry about with your email security (at least not particular to this problem).
Unfortunately I am not sure how to direct you to fixing it other than first making sure the text you're sending is in the desired encoding...
posted by jozxyqk at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2017

Agree with andrewesque - that's an encoding problem, not a translation problem.

Extremely, extremely simplified, when the information in your email is sent, it sends two things:
1) A code for each letter. The letters aren't exactly sent across the internet as letters, they're sent encoded (because that's how computers talk to each other). So for example, instead of sending "Hi", it might send "0048 0069"
2) A lookup guide (e.g. "hey, I'm using the Unicode Standard version 9.0").- There are a bunch of different encoding methods (several popular - such as Unicode & ASCII), so it has to say which codebook to use.

Then, when it gets to the other end, the thing receiving the email sees "0048 0069", checks which lookup guide it's supposed to use, and - if it's all worked correctly - translates that back to "Hi".

Somewhere between you and her, something about that information got messed up - either which code it was using or the values themselves - and on a character-by-character basis, it translated your message (or even possibly some headers in your message - not part that was supposed to be seen at all) into gibberish.

So it's not a security thing, and if it doesn't happen repeatedly I would just shrug and move on.
posted by brainmouse at 8:23 AM on February 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

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