As the linguist José Luiz Fiorin explains in the magazine Língua Portuguesa no. 26, “The meaning of expressions is formed as a unit and not by the sum of the words which compose them.”
This is a more elegant way of saying that words acquire their meaning in context, both the immediate grammatical structure and the larger social and historical setting.
It indicates that not only do languages utilize idiomatic expressions, but that a language is by nature idiomatic.
That being true, the attempt at literal translation fails miserably to convey meaning.
¶ Even word order changes meaning, although Bible translators who promote literal versions don’t want to admit word order to their literalness. The other day, we were looking at a phrase in Portuguese, the exact phrase I don’t remember. But it had to do with the adjective grande. Placed after the noun, it tends to mean, “large;” before it the meaning is “great.”
So be careful with that. You may want to call someone great, but wind up insulting him with a slur about his size.
¶ The controversy over style of Bible translation still runs red-hot. The publishers of the HCSB version tried to sidestep it by calling their philosophy “Optimal Equivalence.” It
seeks to achieve an optimal balance of literary precision and emotive clarity through a comprehensive analysis of the text at every level. This process assures maximum transfer of both words and meanings contained in the original. The goal of this translation philosophy is to bring as much information from the original text into the reader’s world in language that is as clear and comprehensible as possible.
Maybe they’re on to something that nobody before them has been able to achieve. You be the judge.
¶ Today is a holiday in São José dos Campos. And only here. The founding of the city, or done on top of the day of Catholic swoon for Saint Joseph. (José = Joseph.) So many workers are off today, here, but next door in Jacareí, Taubaté, Paraibuna, and other towns, it’s business as usual. The city hopes to get 600 people on bikes for a ride starting from downtown.
Brazil is near the top of the list of countries in the world with the most holidays and vacation time. The best job is the American Embassy here: they don’t work on Brazilian or U.S. holidays.
¶ Speaking of things local, one news site for the Vale Metropolitan Region says today is, among other special observances and ceremonies, the Day of the Dying. Dia dos moribundos. Do we really need this? Is this something to celebrate? Or, if we don’t celebrate it, what kind of thoughts and activities are appropriate? A pre-funeral, maybe? At least, you could have it your way.
Aren’t all humans, once you think of it, moribund?
¶ Speaking of moribund, you know that just about anything can kill you these days. Even bacon, they say, though my grandparents lived to almost 100 by frying everything in bacon grease. You gotta be a real lowlife to malign bacon.
Now comes news of a man who died from biting his nails. Next thing you know, somebody will tell us you can die from, say, sorghum molasses (which I l like on my biscuits), or of a stroke after reading a negative premature obituary of yourself. Oh, wait …
Then there are dozens of poor Russians who get killed every year by falling icicles. They want the global warming myth to be true. Can you imagine the tombstone?
Here lies Ivan, no victim of crime,
Done in by no bad vice;
He’s mourned by many, in his prime
Impaled by a piece of ice.
Maybe that explains Putin’s invasion of Crimea. Go easy on the guy. What if you had nightmares every night about killer icicles?
¶ Enough of morbid topics! Let’s finish with a flourish. This morning on my Portuguese-language devotional site, a lady posted a comment on the page about how to sign up. She wrote, “The God that I serve is the same God for all.” No idea where she’s coming from or what she wanted to say by that. Maybe she’s right. Or maybe she serves a God of her own imagination, who is going to save everyone regardless.
Now, it’s true that the revealed God of Scripture is the same God for all. For the obedient that will be a great comfort. For the ignorant and rebellious, it will be terror. “God is both kind and severe” Rm 11.22 NLT.
So should I approve her comment or not?