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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Suck Face

No, I have not gone completely off my rocker - knitting and all. (Oh boy, am I going to get it for this one.)

But Lingamish has been keeping me in stitches over on his blog. It appears that he has been trying to lure me to comment on his blog instead of arguing exclusively with the usual cabal over here. Okay, if we can solve the problems of propitiation we can certainly deal with this one. I appeal to our readers. Here is Lingamish's dilemma. The language that he is translating into has no word for kiss.

Kissing is not a universal human behaviour. I studied anthropology once upon a time so I knew that! How then should one translate the word for kiss into a language that does not have a word for kiss? Is suck going to do it for you?

I propose that I open my new Danker's Greek Lexicon. What a wonderful way to inaugurate it.

φιλἐω - 1. to have a special interest in someone or something, frequently with focus on close association, have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.

2. to kiss as a special indication of affection

With no further fuss, Lingamish, I would suggest something discreet like demonstrate affection for. Comments are welcome.

15 Comments:

At Thu Mar 15, 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Yours is a nice solution, Suzanne. From your translation training classes, you may remember that your solution is called "going generic". When a specific act is inappropriate within a culture, we can still refer to it with a more generic term that would subsume it as well as other acts that could have the same meaning in other cultures.

Going generic is *not* what some call transculturation. In the case of kissing being inappropriate as a cultural greeting, transculturation in translation would involve substituting a more appropriate cultural form, such as shaking hands.

In Cheyenne we faced the same translation issue that Lingamish did with kissing not being a greeting. So we went generic with a word that means 'to welcome.'

It is questionable translation policy to reference to specific actions or entities in the biblical text. But using a more generic term does not do that. It subsumes the biblical term; it does not substitute for it.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I was not sure how to take Lingamish's point, but I felt that showing the derivation of the word 'kiss' in Greek might help. In some ways it is more literal to say, "indicate affection" however that is in your culture.

Welcome also sounds nice.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 11:48:00 AM, Blogger John Radcliffe said...

Wayne, I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean by:

It is questionable translation policy to reference to specific actions or entities in the biblical text.

******

One problem I see with a translation like "demonstrate affection for" is that, while kissing might be taken to *imply* affection for the person kissed, the translation shouldn't suggest that the affection was genuine when it might have been feigned.

Of course, it's easier to nit-pick than suggest alternatives!

 
At Thu Mar 15, 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

John,

Good question. However, wouldn't it be possible to say something like "make a demonstration of affection for" or "go through the actions of welcoming".

And certainly we welcome alternatives. But you can always nit-pick if you like.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 07:04:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

I dunno. Something is different with your proposed wording:

Song of Songs 1:2

Let him go through the actions of welcoming me with mandibular demonstrations of affection. For your cordial ways are better than Coca-cola.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

John questioned what I had commented:

Wayne, I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean by:

mine:
"It is questionable translation policy to reference to specific actions or entities in the biblical text."


I'm glad you didn't understand it, John. I had a synapse lapse and left out a key word that I intended to be there, the word "change" before the word "reference." Sorry about that. It's been happening more and more in my 50s and I'm afraid it will continue as I get close to my 60s.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Anon. questioned:

I dunno. Something is different with your proposed wording:

Song of Songs 1:2

Let him go through the actions of welcoming me with mandibular demonstrations of affection. For your cordial ways are better than Coca-cola.


Yes, indeed, that would not work. The only time the generic term will work is if it has the same function as the term it is subsuming--and even then, a generic substitute has to be used with caution if readers of a translation are familiar with the cultural item through some other translation, such as one in the national language of their country. In the case Lingamish was asking about, the function was one of a cultural greeting. In the SofS there is quite a different function. I'm glad that my wife doesn't simply give me cultural greetings!

:-)

 
At Fri Mar 16, 01:27:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree here fully with the notion of equivalence. For example, there are various references in Greek literature (particularly in Athenian society) to homosexual pederasty -- a practice which is repellent to us in modern western society.

I have seen liberal arguments that because these had such a different cultural context in Greek society, they should be "transformed" in translation. I cannot accept this view. I think trying to find a cultural equivalent obscures understanding of sex in Greek culture, and renders the writings of early Christians, including Paul, almost incomprehensible. I think a better approach is to educate the reader,so that the Pauls aspects for protecting human rights and dignity come through loud and clear. Were I translating The Symposium I would use a fairly explicit translations, with footnotes to explain the cultural context. I would allow the issue of agape, eros, and philia to be explained by the dialogue even though some comments violate modern conservative sensibilities. With such a background, the reader will be better able to appreciate some of the fine points in the Christian Scriptures.

Similarly trying to find a cultural equivalent for Roman crucifixion seems to be unwise. Now, it is absolutely the case that in the US, crucifixion is not a common practice. If we simply assert that Jesus was executed, we lose too much of the iconography central to all the Christian religions.

So I think it is wisest, when producing a work to be read by serious students, to translate as directly as possible, and mention points of cultural confusion in the footnotes.

 
At Fri Mar 16, 07:25:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

In that case a literal translation such as 'suck face' might be better. I felt that 'suck face' was an improvement on just plain 'suck' which would be confused with breastfeeding. Certainly we need to be very open about the use of footnotes in translation.

 
At Thu Mar 22, 02:43:00 PM, Blogger bruce said...

Biblical translation
Your problem is obvious. Like Phillip to the Ethiopian eunach, "do you understand what you readeth?" If God wanted YOU to translate the scriptures, God would certainly give YOU the ways, means, and INSIGHT OF HIS, in order to do so. To make this issue, scripture translation, i.e. teaching and doctrine, into a free for all, is a huge glaring indication of IGNORANCE.
Did phillip go through mental agony before he jumped up into that man's chariot? No being LED OF GOD, he already knew what to say before he opened his mouth. Modern day heuristics cannot replace God's Holy Spirit. I dare say, next time you find that you are wondering what to think, do, or say, you certainly know who to ask. And if not, see Proverbs 17:16.

 
At Thu Mar 22, 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

"do you understand what you readeth?"

Bruce, if you are going to attempt your own translation of Acts 8:30 into archaic English, at least try to get it grammatically correct.

If God wanted YOU to translate the scriptures, God would certainly give YOU the ways, means, and INSIGHT OF HIS, in order to do so.

Indeed, if God wants someone to translate the scriptures, God will certainly give them the ways, means, and INSIGHT OF HIS, in order to do so. But who are you to write this in a counter-factual conditional sentence implying that there is some particular YOU (Suzanne?) to whom God has not given his insight? Or are you suggesting that someone to whom God has given this insight should know all the answers and so not have to discuss translation issues with others? Yes, God gives insight, but usually at least partly through wise advice from others with insight. He never expects us to proudly believe that we have all the answers and don't need further help.

 
At Fri Mar 23, 05:50:00 AM, Blogger eaglesheight said...

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power." (1 Cor. 4:20)

Jesus was about the kingdom coming to earth. He only did what He saw his Father doing. He healed people and loved them. The Pharisees studied and interpreted the Scriptures their whole lives and yet when the Messiah came they denied him because they had no relationship with God.

Be careful then when getting into long winded discussions about what the Scriptures mean and how to "translate" them. Seek God and love those around you. God will speaks to His children, and his flock know the sound of their Sheperd's voice.

Galatians 5:6 says, " The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

It is good to study the Bible and what it says if it is productive and fruitful in your knowledge of Him who called you. The Word of God is living and active, it can speak for itself. We cannot add any value to the Bible or to God.

"He who has ears, let him hear."

 
At Thu Apr 19, 01:47:00 PM, Blogger ofsted said...

How about "hug" - is there a word for that?

 
At Thu Apr 19, 01:48:00 PM, Blogger ofsted said...

How about "hug" is there an equivalent for that?

 
At Wed May 02, 01:15:00 AM, Blogger Mary said...

So why not say,' touch lips to cheek' or' touch lip to lip' and for a hug say 'wrap your arms around another'? Why not use a description , for the word that is missing. Then there can be no missunderstanding. Gods word shouldnt be generic. I have heard kiss defined as a gentle loving touch, but I would think that where its done should be specified here. Personally I have always wondered what a 'holy kiss' looked like.. whether it was done on the cheek or hand or both cheeks like the Italians do .. or what.. anyone know??? I doubt it was on the lips.

 

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