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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Give ear

Some contemporary English Bible versions use the phrase "give ear to" when what they really mean to be saying is "listen to." The latter wording is what fluent speakers of English have been naturally saying and writing for many years. I have never heard or read anyone naturally say "give ear to" and I've been around for more than half a century. I have googled on "give ear to" and I have not yet found any contemporary usage of this phrase. So far, most Google hits on this phrase come from the Bible. The phrase has been used in English in the past, but it is obsolete or archaic by now.

There is no increase in accuracy to write "give ear to" when you mean "listen to." My literary ear finds no greater literary beauty in "give ear to" than in the expression which people normally use.

After reviews of a version or a gadfly like myself notes odd wordings such as "give ear to," I have sometimes heard the response, "Well, I can still figure out what was meant." But that begs the question of why translators should use odd wordings in the first place. I am the first one who wants accuracy in translation. But using such odd wordings does not increase accuracy. I am one of the first ones who appreciates true literary beauty, but using odd wordings does not increase literary excellence. Using odd wordings makes it sound like God doesn't really know our languages very well. And I think that is a very inaccurate thing to communicate through translation of his written word.

Can you think of reasons why an English Bible translation produced today should have wordings such as "give ear to" rather than natural, standard wordings such as "listen to"?

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