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Monday, 17 August 2015
No Definite Meaning

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything,
David Bellos, Penguin, 2011, page 80

After discussing the possible ways in which the film title "It's Complicated" (no comments, criticism or endorsement of the film given here, it is Bellos' example) might be translated to French - the distributors decided against "C'est Compliqué", the obvious translation, but with cultural overtones, in favour of "Pas si simple!" (Not so simple) - Bellos stresses the need to know when to step outside the 'normal' translation envelope.

What it comes down to is this. Written and spoken expressions in any language don't have a meaning just like that, on their own, in themselves. Translation represents the meaning that an utterance has, and in that sense translation is a pretty good way of finding out what the expression used in it may mean. In fact, the only way of being sure whether an utterance has any meaning at all is to get someone to translate it for you.

We must translate, not just words but also culture and background, if we are to effectively communicate. Simply assuming that words mean to everyone what they mean to us, is a sure recipe for poor - or, worse, misleading - communication.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:10am Comment Comments: 2

Monday, 17 August 2015
Comment -

This policy is riddled with problems. For example, most modern translators render the second half of Psalm 106:15 "but sent a wasting disease among them". But the Hebrew says nothing about disease - that is interpretation taken from the context in Numbers 11 - and the Hebrew uses the word "nefesh" (bnafsham - literally 'into their souls'). So the modern translators of NIV, ESV etc preclude a theological comment on the incident, preferring to stick to the event's details. In my humble opinion the Psalmist was endeavouring to make a theological point, rendered correctly by the King James Version, namely that when the people made the wrong choice and God gave them what they asked for, the result was not merely to be the subject of plague, as in Numbers 11, but also that leanness or wasting entered into their souls. See CH Spurgeon's commentary in Treasury of David.

Posted By Timothy Butlin 08:35am


Monday, 17 August 2015
Comment -

It would surely require much more time to be spent in the translation effort to convey more of the theological meaning. The ancient Targums offered a level of paraphrase or comment to explain the meaning of the original text. Presumably getting the translation and editing committees to agree on the theological meaning rather than just the stricter and more limited textual choices.

Perhaps this an example to underline the point made a few days ago, that it is necessary to have at least some original language scholars making input to study groups and local congregations so that this sort of thing can be properly addressed.

Posted By Jonathan 11:00am