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I read this short story at least 30 years ago and it was probably even older. I read it in a collection in French, but is was almost certainly a translation, because I remember a footnote of the translator (though it might just have been a footnote by the editor, but I doubt it) about the expression "bonne mammifération".

I don't remember much of it, but it was short. A tourist arrives at a spaceport. There is some description, I think, of the place and of the various bizarre aliens there.
The tourist then goes through immigration/passport control/customs.

He is asked a few questions. I vaguely remember the context was hilarious, but I am not sure. Anyway, when letting the tourist through, the immigration/passport control/customs officer asks him "vous êtes un mammifère, n'est ce pas?" ("you are a mammal, aren't you?"), and when the tourist answers "yes", as a sign of welcome the agent ends the exchange with "bonne mammifération" ("good mammalation" (?)).

And the footnote of the translator (or editor, but probably not) says it is a neologism, that the agent just wants to be nice, warning the reader not to try and make much sense of this phrase.

Of course, this is practically the only thing I remember...

I really tried to find the story using Google, but neither "bonne mammifération" nor "good mammalation" with "short story" and/or "SF" resulted in useful hits.

1 Answer 1

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This has to be an excerpt from The Star Diaries: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy by Stanisław Lem:

“There’s a whacker expected, it begins in a week. Therefore kindly go over to room 116, our spares are made there, you’ll be taken care of. Then proceed to room 67, that’s the pharmaceutical booth. They’ll give you Euphruglium pills, take one every three hours, it neutralizes the harmful effects on your organism of our planet’s radioactivity… Will you be lighting up during your stay on Enteropia?”

“No, thanks.”

“As you like. Here are your papers. You are a mammal, I believe?”

“That’s right.”

“Well then, happy mammaling!”

French translation (from the excerpt in Communiquer en Français : 1ère année de l’enseignement secondaire):

Le strum6 commence dans une semaine. Vous serez aimable de ce fait de vous rendre dans la chambre 116, où se trouve notre fabrication de réserves qui s’occupera de vous. Ensuite je vous demanderai de passer dans la chambre 67, c’est une cabine pharmaceutique. Vous recevrez là-bas des pilules Enfruglium, que vous devrez prendre toutes les trois heures, pour neutraliser7 l’action radio-active8 de notre planète, néfaste à votre organisme. Désirez-vous être lumineux pendant votre séjour sur Entéropie ?
– Non, merci.
– Comme vous voudrez, voici votre papier.
– Vous êtes un mammifère, n’est-ce pas ?
– Oui.
– Alors bonne mammifération9 !

Footnote 9 is "Mot créé par l’auteur."

Found with the search "un mammifère, n'est ce pas ?"


Including a useful comment by WoJ here:

This makes much more sense in Polish: a mammal is ssak. This come from the word ssać which means suck (or more precisely in that case - suckle). The final sentence in Polish is "A więc pomyślnego ssania" which means "Well then, happy suckling!* (or "happy sucking"). This was lost in translation. – WoJ

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  • 33
    This makes much more sense in Polish: a mammal is ssak. This come from the word ssać which means suck (or more precisely in that case - suckle). The final sentence in Polish is "A więc pomyślnego ssania" which means "Well then, happy suckling!* (or "happy sucking"). This was lost in translation.
    – WoJ
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 11:27
  • 1
    I think that comment belongs to an answer. Since this wasn't originally in English, we need an explanation. Also, WoJ, is the French footnote incorrect that ssania is a "Mot créé par l'auteur"?
    – Jetpack
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 19:44
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    The joke works so much better with languages where the word for mammal is "animals that suckle" - "Oh you're a 'suckling animal'? - Then I guess have fun suckling on our planet!"
    – Falco
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 10:10
  • 2
    This is not the only Q&A on this site w.r.t. a Lem story where the answer is "works much better in the original Polish!"
    – davidbak
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 4:19
  • And in this festive season, a Happy Suckling to us all. Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 20:23

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