When you speak, you “paint.” Each language has a palette with a finite amount of colors that have evolved from the cultural memories of its users. When you try to “paint” a scene in a different language, the same words can have different shades of meaning, so the result is never exactly the same.
I recently told you about some of the interesting Norwegian words I grew up saying, like “uff-da” and “vasakope.” As my immigrant ancestors were learning English, they hung on to words in their mother tongue that did a better job of expressing what they meant to say. My relatives weren’t the only ones doing this. […]
I’ve been thinking about Hebrew words and language lately, and analyzing the words that I use. I’ve noticed that my vocabulary is peppered with words from other languages. Many of my unusual words come from my Norwegian ancestors. For instance, I grew up saying uff-da. Many have seen “uff-da” on bumper-stickers and refrigerator magnets, but I […]
I love Hebrew words. I can’t count the number of times that learning a definition has deepened my understanding of not just one Bible passage, but many. Recently I’ve posted a couple examples to show you what I mean. In the article “Does God Forget Sins?” I explain how the words for “remember” and “forget” […]
Biblical Hebrew includes only about 8,000 words, far fewer than the 100,000 or more we have in English. Because Hebrew has so few words, each is like an over-stuffed suitcase, bulging with extra meanings that it must carry in order for the language to fully describe reality. Unpacking each word is a delightful exercise in […]
Few issues stir up Christian passions more than Bible translation, but you never hear debates like this in Jewish circles. Issues over translation don’t come up, because everyone knows that God’s words were not revealed in English. The Jewish approach reveres the original Hebrew text, rather than any particular translation.