Mesa Verde map gets lost in translation on iPhone

Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017 11:12 PM
An iPhone screen grab shows Mesa Verde displayed in Japanese characters.

When I pull up “Mesa Verde” on Google Maps using my Apple iPhone, “Mesa Verde” appears in what looks to be Japanese. Why is this? It’s not just my phone, I have used numerous iPhones and it is always the same. Here’s a screen shot. – Dusty Beals

Tech’s language glitches are not a foreign concept, despite the fact that technology drives globalization.

Just ask the worldly Mrs. Action Line, who is universally miffed at auto correct.

It should be called “Otto core-wrecked.”

Every time Mrs. Action Line taps out “Smedley” on her mobile device, the thing insists that the word is either “medley” or “smelly.”

The latter is probably the more apt substitution. After all, Action Line has meted out many mephitic messages over the years.

But let’s get back to the matter of the iPhone’s cryptic “Mesa Verde.”

Apple’s bugs have been quite embarrassing, the most recent of which surfaced last month.

When some users typed a lowercase “i,” the auto correct feature promptly overrode it with an upper case “A” with a question mark.

Could this be linked to Mesa Verde appearing in Japanese characters? And, for that matter, are the characters actually Japanese?

For linguistic clarification, we asked our good friend Chyako Hashimoto about the screen shot.

Chyako is a marvelously talented artist and educator who operates the YUNOMI Pottery Studio at the Smiley Building.

“The letters simply spell out Mesa Verde in phonetic characters called Katakana,” Chyako said.

“These letters don’t carry meanings like Kanji (Chinese characters), but they sound out the English phonetic sound for Mesa Verde,” she added. “The dot in the middle just signifies they are two different words.”

Is this an Apple bug?

Because Steve Jobs isn’t available for comment, we turned to the next best authority: the nice folks at the Mac Ranch in Durango.

“Have you folks encountered Mesa Verde appearing in Japanese on an iPhone using Google Maps?”

The technician quickly pointed out that it would be a Google issue, not an Apple problem.

“Your question-asker should use Apple Maps,” he said. “That will likely fix the glitch.”

Good point. Cross-platform doesn’t necessarily mean cross-cultural.

As to why Google Maps uses Japanese to mark an American national park, it will remain a mystery – much like the migration of Mesa Verde’s original occupants.

But we live in the post-Chacoan era of fake news and alternative facts.

Therefore, a Japanese Mesa Verde means the ancestral Puebloans didn’t relocated to the south.

They traveled west to the Pacific coast, where they built reed rafts and sailed across the ocean to Japan.

Furthermore, we also know that Google stores data in “the cloud,” where unforeseen forces could be at work.

The appearance of Japanese over Mesa Verde could portend this ominous disaster:

Godzilla will emerge from a sipapu at the floor of a Cliff Palace kiva.

The monster will lumber down the park’s north escarpment and proceed to destroy downtown Cortez.

How is this any less absurd than any of the real news these days?

As they say in Japan, “issun saki wa yami.”

According to a Google search the proverb translates to “it is dark one inch ahead of you,” or the English equivalent of “expect the unexpected.”

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if can answer why the ancestral Puebloans built their cliff dwellings so far from the highway.