Idioms

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Van, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Van

    Van
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    One of the challenges in translation is with idioms. Does the translator translate an idiom literally, or idiomatically, i.e. presenting what the idiom is thought to actually mean. Lets consider "children of wrath." According to the NET footnote, "children of wrath" is a Semitic idiom which may mean either “people characterized by wrath” or “people destined for wrath.” I am not sure what was meant by "characterized by wrath" but what I believe it refers to being altered by God's curse as a consequence of the Fall, i.e. all of us were made sinners. And of course, in the condition, separated from God, we are "destined for wrath" in the afterlife. And if a group of translators think the idiom means something else, i.e. "deserving of wrath," and they translate the phrase idiomatically, then more conservative students might see their effort as a mistranslation.

    I think the best way to handle idioms is to translate them literally, and footnote the possible idiomatic meaning.

    And if the version is a study bible, then the concordance might reference other places where the idiom is used, or where similar phrases are used, such as accursed children or vessels of wrath.
     
  2. InTheLight

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    So if an idiom like "you're making a mountain out of a molehill" were to be 'translated' according to your guidelines your Bible would say "making a mountain out of a molehill" and have an asterisk referring to a footnote where the footnote would say, what, exactly?
     
  3. Crabtownboy

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    And what do you do with an idiom such as "whiter than snow", when a language has no word for snow as it never snows in that region?
     
  4. Van

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    Lets consider Psalm 51:7 and the phrase "whiter than snow." The NET footnote says, "I will be whiter than snow. Whiteness here symbolizes the moral purity resulting from forgiveness (see Isa 1:18). If you look at Revelation 7:14 you again see the idea that when washed by the blood of the Lamb, it is made white, i.e. pure, without blemish.

    The Hebrew word (H7950 sheleg ) is translated snow in many translations. We find "white as snow" and "whiter than snow" in the text.
     
  5. franklinmonroe

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    One problem is knowing exactly which phrases in an ancient language are actually idioms; and second, what did they mean?
     
  6. Van

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    Spot on!!
     
  7. Rippon

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    Idioms do not mean what they say. That's why most translations need to have the meaning in the text and the so-called 'literal' in the footnotes.
     
  8. John of Japan

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    Not to be picky, but actually, that's not an idiom, but a literal statement. An idiom is a word or words that mean something different from the literal meaning, but "whiter than snow" actually means what it says, since snow is actually white. So the statement is a metaphor, not an idiom. The translation choices are then literal or free or DE.

    “Idiom: (1) Any expression peculiar to a language, conveying a distinct meaning, not necessarily explicable by, occasionally even contrary to, the general accepted grammatical rules.—(2) The idiom is a term denoting the general linguistic or grammatical character of a language” (Dictionary of Linguistics, by Pei and Gaynor, p. 95).
     
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  9. John of Japan

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    Actually, the Greek and Hebrew idioms are understood quite well by profs and scholars. There are several books out listing all of the ancient language idioms.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    The choices for translating that idiom would be: literal if there is the same idiom in the target language (it happens); literal if the meaning makes sense in the target language ("kick against the goads"); an equivalent idiom in the target language; restating the meaning in the target language without an idiom.

    Please see my essay at: http://paroikosmissionarykid.blogspot.com/2013/03/translating-idioms-guest-essay-by.html
     
  11. Alcott

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    "Making a mountain out of a mole hill" is not an idiom. It's something like a hyperbolic adage... or just call it an expression. An idiom is something like "There was a a man who....." In another language that would come out "A man was in that place who...." "There" does not a mean a specific. but unmentioned, place in that case, but it is an idiom meaning the man in question existed. But in English it would sound awkward to say "A man existed who...."

    Another common idiom is "I'm fixing to go to....." It doesn't mean you're repairing anything; just planning to go shortly-- which doesn't mean you're not wearing high heels.

    Just one more... I remember having a little trouble around junior high school if we were assigned reading by British authors and their use of the phrase, "to be sure." I tried to fit that as meaning "checking" or "rechecking." before I finally discovered it just means "certainly," or "of course!"
     
  12. InTheLight

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    idioms.JPG
     
  13. Van

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    Now the subject has been changed from how to translate idioms to debate about what is an idiom. For example the phrase white as snow could mean literally white such as a hand infected with leprosy, Or the same phrase could be used idiomatically for moral purity resulting from being washed in the blood of the Lamb. The idea has nothing to do with the color or whiteness of snow, but perhaps with the purity of snow.

    Now it has been claimed that "scholars" know which phrases are idioms and what they mean. But the NET footnote indicates some scholars are uncertain of the idiomatic meaning of phrases thought to be idioms.

    Returning to topic, translation should translate idioms and metaphors and figures of speech, etc, literally and footnote the possible meaning or meanings.
     
  14. InTheLight

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    So, if your Bible literally translated the idiom "making a mountain out of a molehill" as text and have an asterisk referring to a footnote, what would the footnote say, exactly?
     
  15. Alcott

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    Merrian Webster defines idiom: an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own

    "Making a mountain out of a mole hill" CAN be understood from the meanings of its separate words.
     
  16. InTheLight

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    I quoted four DICTIONARIES OF IDIOMS and "mountain out of a mole hill" was an entry. I think that ought to settle the question!
     
  17. John of Japan

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    Forgive me, but I think you are mixing up the two meanings of idiom Pei and Gaynor which I gave in post #8. As has been pointed out, "Make a mountain out of a molehill" is an idiom according to first definition. However, saying "a man who" is rather to be called "the idiom of the language," or how that languages phrases things, rather than a word or words with a different meaning than the literal one.

    Here is the definition once again: “Idiom: (1) Any expression peculiar to a language, conveying a distinct meaning, not necessarily explicable by, occasionally even contrary to, the general accepted grammatical rules.—(2) The idiomis a term denoting the general linguistic or grammatical character of a language” (Dictionary of Linguistics, by Pei and Gaynor, p. 95).

    I would call that a regional dialect rather than an idiom.
     
  18. John of Japan

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    Any idiom can be understood in a literal way, which then is the wrong meaning. Understanding this idiom in a literal way would mean to literally find a molehill and pile dirt on it until it is a mountain. However, hearing the idiom, no one would understand it that way, but would rather understand it to mean making a minor matter into a major one.
     
  19. Squire Robertsson

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    My classic example of two languages idioms is the English
    • Stop pulling my leg.
    which in Russian is
    • Stop hanging macaroni on my ear.
     
  20. Van

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    How many molehills have been posted? Stop pulling my leg. If a translator does not translate the source language, i.e. as children of wrath, literally, but chooses to remove the actual word (children) and insert what is thought to be the idiomatic meaning (deserving) and the inserted meaning was not the message God intended, it is a mistranslation. Nearly all the translations stick with "children of wrath" and some, either in footnotes or study notes, explain what they think the intended message was. Note at least four meanings (1) object of wrath, (2) deserving of wrath, (3) destined for wrath, and (4) characterized by wrath have been suggested.
     

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