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I'm an electronics hobbyist, so I'm no stranger to iffy machine translations from Chinese to English in datasheets and marketing materials. However, today I came across something that I'm not sure can be explained by a machine translation error.

This RJ45 connector part is produced by a Zhongshan-based manufacturer, and comes with the following description:

RJ45 RJReceptacle 1 Internal oscillator included Plugin Ethernet Connectors/Modular Connectors (RJ45 RJ11) ROHS

The phrase that surprised me here is "internal oscillator included".

If you're unfamiliar with electronics, RJ45 connectors are the type used for most wired networks. This part is a connector that solders into a PCB so you can plug a network cable (e.g. Cat5) into it. The part has a metal shroud and a pair of LEDs built in for status lights. The part also has integrated magnetics, i.e. a set of tiny transformer coils that magnetically couple the signal from the wire to the pins on the connector, to provide galvanic isolation.

There is no situation in which a connector like this would contain an oscillator, nor anything like an oscillator, and oscillators are not a class of circuit that one would usually associate with RJ45. This connector definitely does not contain an oscillator. If electronics isn't your wheelhouse, you'll just have to trust me that this is bizarre enough to be worthy of catching attention.

I tried doing some forward-and-back translations using machine translators, to see if I could get them to cough up the word "oscillator", but words like "magnetics", "transformer", "galvanic isolation", "coil", etc. all translated cleanly in both directions.

Initially I thought this might be a one-off mistake, but looking through listings for other similar parts I see the same "internal oscillator" phrase reused in quite a few others - 276 different parts from a range of different manufacturers, including western ones. The datasheet (PDF) for the part linked above has no mention of oscillators. LCSC, the distributor, is Shenzhen-based, so my guess is that someone there did the translation and introduced this strange phrase.

To be 100% clear: there is not an oscillator in this part. This is an error in LCSC's description.

Is there a linguistic explanation for the inclusion of this odd phrase? Perhaps a similarity in written form with one of the other common terms I mentioned above, resulting in it being misread by a non-technical translator? Or is it simply more likely that someone fat-fingered a copy paste from a translation job?

Update: A theory someone suggested is that the phrase might have arisen from the concept of the status LEDs flashing or blinking, if the Chinese words for "flashing lights" or "flashing indicators" has some commonality with the word for "oscillator".

Second update: LCSC have a separate Chinese language website. It sells the same parts - here's the same connector part: https://item.szlcsc.com/174889.html - but the website layout is totally different, and I can't read Chinese, so I've got no idea which part of that page is the part description (if it even has one).

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  • Can you provide the Chinese version of the specification?
    – r13
    Jun 26, 2022 at 21:53
  • @r13 Not entirely sure. Their Chinese language website has a completely different layout and it's not clear to me which text is the part description. Here's a link to the same part I mentioned in the question: item.szlcsc.com/174889.html
    – Polynomial
    Jun 26, 2022 at 22:06
  • See this web page for RJ45 connector with oscillator function/feature. bing.com/…
    – r13
    Jun 26, 2022 at 22:13
  • @r13 That's not what those results are showing. They're talking about dedicated oscillators (e.g. clock synthesis, PLLs, etc.) for Ethernet PHYs in FPGAs and network ASICs. Please trust me that RJ45 connectors with internal oscillators are not a thing that makes sense :)
    – Polynomial
    Jun 26, 2022 at 22:17
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    One guess from a 行外: the name of a parts manufacturer being misinterpreted as the common name of a component, and erroneously translated as such. Any company with a name involving 振、荡 (both parts of the Chinese common noun for 'oscillator' 振荡器), even 动, may lead to this mistranslation.
    – Michaelyus
    Jun 27, 2022 at 0:07

3 Answers 3

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I wouldn't recognize an oscillator if you hit me over the head with it, but quite possibly, some young lady in Shenzhen, charged with putting the Chinese into English, which seriously interrupted her very important shopping on Tabao and the polishing of her fingernails, quickly thought this:

i.e. a set of tiny transformer coils that magnetically couple the signal from the wire to the pins on the connector, to provide galvanic isolation.

represents an oscillator (振荡器) not a magnetic coil system 组合磁场线圈 or a magnetic coil sensor: 线圈式地磁传感器

As to flashing lights:

The green LED is flickering.
绿色LED灯闪烁。

There are some very weird translations out there!

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This is the circuit diagram downloaded from the Chinese website FYI.

enter image description here

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  • Yes, that's the SnapEDA symbol and footprint for the part. But this doesn't answer the question; did you mean to post a comment?
    – Polynomial
    Jun 26, 2022 at 23:43
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    Yes, this is a comment. I still couldn't make the call that it was a translation error, as the original DOES NOT contain such word. It could be a mistake made by the graphic designer - copying the list from another similar product without knowing the engineering aspect of it.
    – r13
    Jun 27, 2022 at 0:15
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I think you are on the right path with thinking that it was one bad translation that has been recycled and reused, as this is very possible. Especially if there is any aspect of the part that could be condsidered to fluctuate, vibrate, flicker, go back and forth, sway.... many related terms can be a minor mistranslation away from oscillation. Even if there is no technical aspect of it, maybe there is a sales pitch description regarding those terms.

I have seen someone with mood swings/being fickle translated as "elastic", which to this day I try not to think too hard about. Even without technical terms adding confusion (which I am sure is also a part of the mess) these things happen.

Sometimes the issue goes all the way to the source. In the past very expensive pocket dictionaries would mistranslate the word dried into fuck. It has been fixed, but was there for years, and grocery signs across china saying fuck vegetables still stand proud. When you have a device you paid a lot of money for, and were taught to use in school, people are less likely to use something else. And when people see that dozens or hundreds of translations already describe something that way, why would you go through the effort to retranslate? Afterall, seeing something commonly used is (not always, like now) a great sign you translated it correctly.

So in the end the source may not ever be known. But I think some source of a poor translation certainly came to be, human or machine. Maybe a few people had that same poor result, or a single company used it for all of their products. From there it likely became common practice.

After all, why would I research or pay someone to translate the word potato chip, if I can just pick up any bag at the super market to see how they write it.

(There is nothing wrong with the word potato chip 炸薯片 in chinese translation. I just chose it as a facetious example of a common term translated into chinese.)

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