I’ve always thought that the Bible, at least in its English translations, was very discreet in its language describing matters of a bedroom nature, namely because of the use of the phrase “to know.” We see it everywhere, “Adam ‘knew’ his wife and she conceived”, “Abraham ‘knew’ Sarah”, etc… I always that this was a subtle translation from what might be a rather explicit Hebrew word. However, it wasn’t until my study of the Greek New Testament that I learned, much to my surprise, that “to know” is actually the verb used! In St. Luke’s Gospel at the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary responds to the Angel Gabriel’s news saying, “πως εσται τουτο, επι ανδρα ου γινωσκω?”, literally, “how can this be, since I don’t know man?” The Vulgate has the same word, cognosco. What I assumed was an English liberty in translation for the sake of decency actually exitsts in the original Greek!
As I am unlearned in Hebrew, I have no idea what the word the Torah uses for “intimacy” or even “sex”. Nevertheless, it’s quite thought provoking that the Greek New Testament actually uses a word meaning not “to have sex” but “to know”. Could this be because the act of love is in a sense a “knowing” of the partners for each other? If we saw sexual intimacy as really a “knowing”, perhaps our modern attitudes toward it would be less promiscous? Who’s to say, but it would be cool to know the Hebrew word used in the Torah. After all, if it’s in the Bible, it must be good…right?
From It’s all Greek to me:
Yes, classical languages present some new challenges, but many of the challenges they present are the same as those we encounter in our own language. For example, I am having a hard time with the vocabulary in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. I am also, however, reading an English translation of Anne Catherine Emmerich, and I have to keep a dictionary with me at all times! And a passage like I quoted above is full of its own vocabulary. If anything, studying classics has made me more aware of the difficulty and ambiguity of language in general, and it often makes me wonder whether we ever really succeed in communicating anything to one another!
via It’s all Greek to me.
Almost a decade ago, my mom passed away in a very untimely fashion. Until I turned 18, I contemplated what sort of a tattoo I want to commemorate her tragically short life. I wanted something interesting, meaningful and original. She had always been an fervent student of the classics, and when I was young she would often read them to me. Her favorite was the Illiad and her favorite quote from it was when Glaucus told Diomedes that his father always told him “always be the best my boy, the bravest, and hold your head high above the rest.” Now this would be a good candidate, if not for the consideration that I have no background in Greek and I’d rather not have a language that I don’t speak on my body. In the months and years to come, many ideas floated around, each seeming worse than the previous. Finally, in my sophomore year in college, we were getting a lesson on irregular superlatives. Instead of paying attention, I was playing with phrases in my Latin class and I crafted this “Semper Liberrimus Ero,” or “Always will I be the freest.” It was coined by me, not taken from anywhere, 100% original and it plays into the obsession with freedom and living the freest possible life that I have always had. It is this obsession that has led me down the path of being a fervent Libertarian as well as falling in love with historical figures such as Cicero and Brutus. I took it home, obsessed over it, said it was forever to be the motto of my life. Then one day I had an epiphany, realizing that it could also be the memorial for my Mom that I had been seeking for so long. It worked perfectly: Always, I will be the freest, tis my hardheaded nature. But to take it a step further, I will make sure to remain the freest in memory of her, since she lost her chance not only at living freely, but at living at all. Thus, she will forever live on in me. This makes it doubly powerful, because not only does the phrase have a paticularly powerful meaning to me, but it is also a way to remember her by. I truly love this tattoo on my back that serves as both monument to her and an inspiration to me.
This compilation of wacky laws underscores the importance of context – and in some cases, language skills. Some of them appear to be bogus, so more research is needed. Students of Latin and Greek – you are cordially invited to examine those and attempt to fix what is there to be fixed. Also, follow the link above for wacky laws from abroad.
3) Florida: An elephant tied to a parking meter must pay the regular parking fee.
4) Belvedere, USA: No dog shall appear in public without its master on a leash.
6) Oklahoma: If dogs wish to congregate in groups of three or more on a private property, they need to obtain a permit which must be signed by the Mayor.
7) Idaho: It is illegal for a man to present a box of chocolates to his girlfriend if it weighs anything less than 50 pounds.
8) Blythe, California: A person must own at least two cows before he can be permitted to wear cowboy boots in public.
9) Los Angeles: While committing a bank robbery, it is illegal to shoot the teller with a water pistol.
20) Washington, USA: It is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police that he is entering the city.
21) Texas: When two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each shall come to a full stop, and neither shall proceed until the other has gone.
22) Memphis, Tennessee: It is illegal for a woman to drive by herself. A man must walk or run in front of the vehicle, waving a red flag in order to warn approaching pedestrians and motorists if the vehicle is going over 5 mph.
23) Nebraska, USA: A motorist approaching a horse at night must send up warning red rockets and Roman candles, throw a scenic tarpaulin over his car to conceal it from the horse, and take his machine apart and hide the parts in the grass if the tarpaulin doesn’t soothe the horse.
24) Kentucky, USA: No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she is escorted by at least two officers or unless she is armed with a club. The provisions of this statute shall not apply to females weighing less than 90 pounds nor exceeding 200 pounds, nor shall it apply to female horses.
Many of you already heard and saw this nifty and fully grammatical sentence. I posted it on my other blog last week. This morning, The Slinger (English for Sphendonetes) responded:
I’ve been working on this for days, and I never want to see the d*mn word “buffalo” again. The very sound of it now makes my skin crawl. I also never knew it could be a verb.
The big question for me was whether the first Buffalo was a proper name or not. You can’t tell based on the capitalization, because it would be capitalized either way. I take it as the city.
Buffalo buffalo (the buffalo who live in Buffalo)
[whom] Buffalo buffalo buffalo
buffalo (main verb)
Buffalo buffalo. (Direct object.)
I.e.: Buffalo who live in Buffalo, whom buffalo living in Buffalo buffalo, buffalo buffalo who live in Buffalo.
And if that makes no sense, don’t buffalo me about it.
The Slinger buffaloed the buffalo sentence into submission. He’s pretty smart and determined, but I also attribute it to the superb language awareness he acquired as a student of Latin and Greek. Anyone who sight-reads Euthyphro can deal with sentences like this.
Here is an even fuller explanation of the buffalo sentence – enjoy!