A message from The Rev’d Keith Adlam, Associate Priest.

Posted by Admin on 18 February 2011, 12:00 am

One of our grandsons is studying Romeo and Juliet in English Literature. As part of his work he has to express Shakespeare’s language in today’s English. When I saw him recently he’d found a website that translated the work and he was enjoying reading and understanding the play much better.

I read recently that there are probably around a million English words and phrases that come down to us from various sources and it is changing all the time. When did we first start the new use of old words icon, mouse, and window?

In 1611, the year that King James’s Bible (also known as the Authorised Version) was published, Shakespeare began work on his last play, The Tempest. Shakespeare stretched the lexicon of English words to the very limit of his brain, using a vocabulary of 30,000 words.  The translators of the King James Bible (and there was quite a team), seeking to turn ancient documents in ancient languages into poetic prose that would be read to, and increasingly by, ordinary people, used a vocabulary of a mere 8,000 English words, with phrases that have entered deep into this worldwide, common tongue (“good Samaritan”, “by the skin of your teeth”, “no peace for the wicked”, “salt of the earth”, “go the extra mile” etc.).

Apparently it was always the intention of the translators that their version should evolve linguistically (Cranmer, by the way, had the same view about the Book of Common Prayer).

I value reading the Bible in different translations and one of the resources I use is the website www.biblegateway.com – worth a browse perhaps?

One of God’s gifts to us in creation is to give us brains which are wired for speech, not just a practical, grunting kind of speech, but all the wonderful ways that human linguistic creativity has spoken in poetry and drama, in laws and ecstatic song, in lullabies and slang. In the beginning God … spoke; in the beginning was the Word. And the Bible, the Authorised Version and all its successors, has been translated again and again into the daily speech of millions of people in thousands of languages. It, too, is filled with song and parable, history and poetry, allegory and dream, prophecy, law and apocalyptic vision, biography and letters. It is indeed God’s word to the world. 

To quote from Psalm 150: Praise the Lord! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
God’s blessings on you all.

Keith Adlam
Associate Priest


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