Abstract: ‘witness’ in the Bible tends to mean telling people about something rather than seeing it. This is not normal English. Continue reading Unpicking Biblish: witness
How do we know how many tenses English has? Well, we’ve been taught it. What were you taught?
I think normally the basic answer is past, present and future: “I came; I come; I will come.”
Then someone (probably someone who did some Latin) will chime in with perfect or pluperfect: “I have come; I had come.”Continue reading Folk Linguistics: How many tenses does English have?
Sometimes storage space just seems to disappear. I just got to the bottom of some unnecessary wasted space on my Mac which I hadn’t encountered before. Accordance Bible software (very useful) uses the Sparkle service for updates. I discovered over 15GB of old versions of the Accordance app and updaters sitting quietly in an invisible folder on my system. Many seemed to be duplicates.
So, if you have Accordance and you’re wondering what is using up so much space you might want to check:
- Inside your user folder
- Application Support
- .Sparkle (this is the invisible folder – open it by using Go to Folder and typing .Sparkle)
- Application Support
Or at the Terminal type
open "~/Library/Application Support/Accordance/.Sparkle"
I recently came across a very interesting review of the history of the Hausa Bible up to the 1979/1980 edition, by history professor Musa Gaiya in 1993.
The Hausa Bible of 1980 is a notable publishing event in the history of Bible translation. The author tells the story of the leading personalities responsible for this translation and recounts the many challenges faced. The author also points out that this landmark achievement should not obscure the fact that the sub-groups under Hausa hegemony have mother tongues that should not be neglected. “No language can substitute for the mother tongue… [In] the case of the 1980 edition of the Hausa Bible, care was supposedly taken to express the message in a way that non-Hausa speakers can readily understand, since for the non-Hausa in Northern Nigeria the Hausa language is his second or even third, if not fourth language. Real Hausa, whether Sokoto, Bauchi or Kano, for most of them is often out of reach.”
“The motorbike fell, and my computer was crushed and it was wonderful,” said a Nigerian friend.
Now there’s nothing unusual in that statement for a Nigerian, but I think most British folk would be surprised. For Brits and Americans, Wonderful is just another way of saying ‘very good’. But in Nigerian English it means something surprising or shocking. And quite likely something wonderful is not going to be very good!
Now, I know this distinction in my head, but can I actually discipline myself to use the word Nigerianly?! That’s another thing. I’m sure I’ve baffled many by describing something merely good as particularly shocking.
Every week I drive past Peculiar International College and a shop titled Peculiar Cuts/Drycleaning. There’s a school bus (above) emblazoned with Peculiar Child. Why do I find this odd?
In Nigeria Peculiar means something/someone special, or precious to someone else. That’s what it used to mean in British English too, as you can see in the King James Version of the Bible where Christians are described as being a peculiar people. But languages don’t stand still, and so today peculiar has changed its meaning, from being a delightful epithet of worth to marking something strange or unusual.
Thus my friend Princeton had been perplexed to read in a novel about a ‘peculiar sight: a cat reading a notice board’. That just doesn’t make sense with the Nigerian (old) English meaning of the word, but does with the modern use.
I had an interesting chat over the summer with someone wrestling with how to communicate ‘in Christ‘ in his location/language. This is an ongoing and troubling translation issue, because clearly ‘in Christ’ is an important topic in Paul’s writing and yet a little difficult to talk about clearly because it’s actually rather odd English.
‘In Christ’ is a somewhat literal rendering of the original Greek ἐν Χριστῳ and quite possibly a Hebrew/Aramaic original concept may underlie it.
Would you encourage Christians to want to win people for Christ? Yes! Would you suggest they fight and kill them to do this? What?!! And yet that could very easily be a conclusion people reach. How?
Well in Nigerian English people use ‘win’ where British English uses ‘defeat’.
Source 1: Sunday school ‘this small group of Israelites were going to win the bad bad people’. (about Gideon)
Source 2: Education is the only tool to win all the violence.
(I wonder how the book “How to win friends and influence people” goes down.)
It’s not that one meaning for ‘win’ is right, but if we don’t recognise the differences then it’s a recipe for silent disaster; we may not notice any misunderstanding has happened.
(You should perhaps read Languages of Wilder Confusion)
Most people around the world speak more than one language.
That shouldn’t be news, but in the English-speaking monolingual world, we may need to remind ourselves of this fact.
One language may be used at home and informally, but in a multilingual world, it’s useful to be able to communicate with people who speak different languages. People with different home languages might share a common language or a ‘trade language’ (especially for the marketplace). These are known as ‘languages of wider communication’. English is obviously one, and so is Hausa (used in northern Nigeria), Mandarin Chinese (for China), Spanish etc. Unfortunately while I can greet people and buy my tomatoes using Hausa, when I try to go much deeper in the language I come up against a problem. Any Language of Wider Communication is also frequently a Language of Wilder Confusion.