- Babel fish
The Babel fish is a fictional species in "
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams.
It is introduced in the first novel of the series as a
speciesof fishthat can instantly translate any languageto any other language:
Babelfish was a useful plot devicefor Adams, as it allowed various alien races to communicate while speaking different languages. Adams wrote that the idea that all aliens would speak English was, to him, very strange. In the story, Ford Prefect gives Arthur Denthis babel fish after they have teleported to the Vogonspaceship and the Earth has been demolished. In the TV series version, Ford acquires the fish for Arthur from an aquarium-like vending machineon board. In the book " So Long and Thanks for All the Fish", Arthur returns to Earth after his hitch-hiking and finally removes his babel fish – letting it swim in the goldfish bowl the dolphins have left for him and deciding that he will only now need it for watching foreign films.
The fish's name refers to the story of the
Tower of Babelfrom the Book of Genesis.
Existence of God
Adams' description of the Babel fish also triggered a digression about the
existence of God, since the Babel fish was put forth as a fideist example for the non-existence of a deity:
cquote|Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the "non"-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't.
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next
Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid
dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphidfrom making a fortune with his book "Well That About Wraps It Up For God". In the feature film version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", this scene was omitted and used as a bonus feature on the DVDrelease.
Norwegian pop/rock band Babel Fish got their name from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, after they found out that their original name, Daily Planet, had already been registered by another Norwegian group.
Alta Vista's web translation service is named Babel Fish. In 2003, Yahoo!purchased Overture which owned Alta Vista.
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