The Wonders of Translation

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at
Tue Feb 24 14:17:29 EST 2004

Really quite very far off topic now, but I managed to find an honest to
goodness RELEVANT obDWJ:

Otter quoted:

>>> ..."I'm so glad you brought your Bible," I offered, "Because I have a
question about Judges, Chapter 1, verse 14.  ... "When she came to him, she
urged him to ask her father for a
field; and she alighted from her ass and Caleb said to her,
'What do you wish?'" ...  I then grabbed my
New English Bible, Oxford University Press, 1970, and shared
its translation.  "When she came to him, he incited her to ask her
father for a piece of land.  As she sat on the ass, she broke
wind, and Caleb said, 'What did you mean by that?'">>>

I just looked this up in the Hebrew, and I would never have translated like
that. I probably would have translated something like,

"and it came about upon her arrival, that she swayed him to ask the field of
her father. And she sank from the back of the donkey, and Caleb said to her,
'what ails you?' "

Then again, I once translated a verse from Psalms as "we have hung our
violins upon the evenings", when the correct translation is something like,
"we have hung our harps upon the willows". That's what you get when you give
a Modern Hebrew translator biblical verses to translate with no preparation
and no reference books.

obDWJ : when I was editing Netta Yedid's translation of "Charmed Life", we
came to the bit in the church, where the vicar says: "for there were many in
the congregation that were not sanctified". Netta had just translated that
back into Hebrew as if it were regular English, and the result was a bit
peculiar and vague, so I decided to check if the sentence wasn't by any
chance a biblical quote, and it is, of course. Out of the King James
version, of course. I somehow knew DWJ would prefer the King James. So in
the final Hebrew version there is simply a quote from the original bible,
with a little translator's note giving the correct reference (Second
Chronicles, Chapter 30 verse 17) - and all the bits about being sanctified
were altered accordingly. I consider this to be my single most important
contribution to the translation. Hebrew translations are notorious for
retranslating bits of the bible back into Hebrew and getting them mangled,
I'm glad we managed to avoid that particular trap.

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