Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Translating metonymy in Acts 11:22

In Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1,100 pp.), E.W. Bullinger catalogued over 200 distinct figures of speech, several of them with 30-40 varieties. Bullinger defines a figure as a word or sentence thrown into a peculiar form, different from its original or simplest meaning or use.

Acts 11:22 contains the figure of speech called metonymy, in which one noun is substituted for another noun closely related in meaning. The New King James Version (and several other English translations) conveys this figure as it appears in the Greek manuscripts:

Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem …
Here the noun ears is substituted for their function, namely, hearing. Since ears of the church is not a common expression in English, the New Living Translation conveys the same idea in a more natural manner:
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened …
Since ears is associated with church, readers may visualize the church as a building rather than a group of people. If so, church would also be a metonymy, in which the building is substituted for the people who meet there, namely, Jesus’ followers. In my initial translation of The Better Life Bible, I’ve combined these two instances of metonymy, ears and church, in a way that is more clear and natural for my target audience:
When Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem heard that…
Categories: , ,
,

2 Comments:

At Sat Jun 03, 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

"The ears of the church" is a metonomy in English, and it makes sense to anyone who thinks about it. Is this a very common figure of speech in the Greek of the period? I may well not have been, and thus we're doing an injustice to the text if we remove it on the grounds that it's not a common figure of speech in English. Removing poetic effects when it doesn't change the meaning seems to me to count as a less accurate translation.

 
At Wed Jun 07, 06:39:00 AM, Blogger Dan Sindlinger said...

> "The ears of the church" is a metonomy in English, and it makes sense to anyone who thinks about it.

Perhaps so, but how much time does it take some people to process its meaning? If it is not a common expression, some people may find it amusing rather than meaningful.

> Is this a very common figure of speech in the Greek of the period?

Good question. I don't know.

> I may well not have been, and thus we're doing an injustice to the text if we remove it on the grounds that it's not a common figure of speech in English.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you suggesting that we're doing an injustice when we remove the metonymy, because it may not have been a very common figure of speech in the Greek of the period? If so, I would think the opposite. If it wasn't a common figure of speech then, why should we feel obligated to retain it?

> Removing poetic effects when it doesn't change the meaning seems to me to count as a less accurate translation.

Poetic effects often confuse my target audience, people who rarely read (or have never read) the Bible. If the meaning is not changed but is more clear and natural for a particular audience, I think there is a greater degree of accuracy, not less.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home