Monday, February 1, 2010

Never blindly trust a translation III, or, How to Serve Man


Jewish date:  17 Shevaṭ 5770 (Parashath Yithro).

Today’s holidays:  Monday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Candlemass/Festival of Light (Ritual of the Elements; not to be confused with Candlemas) (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Oppose the Murkowski Attack on the Clean Air Act - The Petition Site”.  Also, I donated platelets yesterday.  Please consider donating blood or blood components yourself if you can and save some lives.

Topic 1:  Yet another example of things that can go wrong in translation.  Soon after the Exodus, the Children of Yisra’el asked for food.  And YHWH grants their request, and in the morning they find something resembling Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes on the ground.  And thus the King James Version translates Exodus 16:15:
And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
What is the problem here?  This translation makes no sense.  No one is going to simply call anything “manna” simply because they do not know what it is.  The original Hebrew for they the Children of Yisra’el were saying to each other is Man hu?  This is a question, not a statement, and a somewhat archaically phrased on at that.  It translates as “What is it?”  The strange substance did end up being called man, so essentially everyone was calling it “what” due to a lack of a better name.

(And the comparison of man to Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes is not my idea; it is what I was taught back in grade school at Addlestone Hebrew Academy.)

Topic 2:  For today’s religious humor:  “Now I lays me down to sleep by penskii”:
Now I lays me down to sleep

Peace, and please be nice to the dog.

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