Friday, March 4, 2011

NPR: New Bible Updates Language; 'Booty' Falls By Wayside

New Bible Updates Language; 'Booty' Falls By Wayside : The Two-Way : NPR

Here are some of the swaps included in the new Bible:
"booty" is now "spoils of war" — for presumably obvious reasons.
"virgin" becomes "young woman" — especially where the original uses the Hebrew word "almah."
"holocaust" will become "burnt offerings" - scholars say that was closer to the original meaning, before "holocaust" came to be identified with the genocide of World War II.
"cereal"— now co-opted by General Mills and Post, becomes "grain."
An interesting look at how language evolves like a living organism. Word definitions change over time, yet many modern definitions are applied to ancient texts when the word was intended to mean something else. Not to mention translation inconsistencies and/or errors that can further distort meaning.

I think it's important to delineate between "intended meaning" and "applied meaning." Since language is itself a complete human construct, there can never be a "true" meaning of any linguistic application. In language, nothing existed before we decided to agree on shared meanings. When I say, "rock," if you understand English, you know what a rock is. There is a thing that is "rock" whether I call it rock, or boulder, or butterbutt. As long as you and I agree on nomenclature, we can share thoughts. Still, if I point to a rock and call it nothing, it still exists as a physical object. Language has none of that.

Thanks to Shannon Slane for pointing me to this article.

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