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When ngettext is called with an empty string as the first parameter, it returns the unparsed headers from the PO (or indeed MO) file.
As per Gist
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Thank you for taking the time to write to us, but this is not
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Despite being a bit confusing, that's what the gettext library is supposed to be returning when you give an empty string for translation.
If you are curious about the reason, please read the MO format section of gettext from its official website:
"Having the original strings sorted enables the use of simple binary search, for when the MO file does not contain an hashing table, or for when it is not practical to use the hashing table provided in the MO file. This also has another advantage, as the empty string in a PO file GNU gettext is usually translated into some system information attached to that particular MO file, and the empty string necessarily becomes the first in both the original and translated tables, making the system information very easy to find."