The second sentence in the poll is one clause excerpted from the verse sequence of Psalm 55:2-3:
Psa 55:2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan,The excerpt in the poll was
Psa 55:3 because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
They drop trouble upon me.126 respondents, out of a total of approximately 350, voted that this sounded like proper English to them. This response, from less than half of all voters, indicates that many respondents found some problem with the wording of this sentence. I do, too.
The problem is that the English lexicon does not sanction the word combination (lexical collocation) of "drop trouble." No native speaker or writer of English would ever say or write this word combination. Instead, they would write something like "bring trouble" (which is exactly what the RSV, from which the ESV was revised, had).
Better Bibles honor the source language from which they are translated, as well as the target language into which they are translated. Honoring a language means that its syntactic and lexical rules are followed. Not following those rules creates processing difficulties for listeners and readers. And it creates the unfortunate impression that the Bible is a strange book, that God doesn't talk my language very well, and, at worst, that the Bible and its teachings are distant from me. Something which is distant does not need to be paid attention to as much as something that is close, that speaks to us in our own language, with the syntax and word combinations which are familiar to us, which touch not only our minds but also our spirits.
According to the ESV website
more than sixty of the world’s leading Bible scholars pored over every word and phrase to achieve the unique accuracy, excellence, and beauty of the ESV Bible.The ESV is a light stylistic revision of the RSV. In this case the ESV translators revised the proper English of the RSV clause from Ps. 55:3
they bring trouble upon meto the strange English of
they drop trouble upon meHopefully, a future edition of the ESV will restore the word "bring" in Ps. 55:3 so that there is, once again, a proper English lexical collocation. Use of proper language is a major component of what it means for a translation to have literary excellence.
We will continue analyzing other verses in the ESV poll in upcoming posts.
Categories: ESV, literary excellence, collocational clash, unnatural English