Untranslatable words

Adam was given the power to name things; that is, he, as well as human beings after him, could devise a word to signify some reality.  Thus we have language.  Learning a new word can make us aware of truths and feelings that we otherwise might have missed.

Some languages have words for things that others don’t.  These “untranslatable words” often name things that need naming.  For example, the Yiddish word “kvell” means ““to glow with pride and happiness at the success of others (often family members).'”  The Georgian word “shemomedjamo” means eating even though you are full because it tastes so good.  The German “Fernweh” means feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been to.  The German “Verschlimmbessern” means making something worse by trying to improve it.

We should start using some of these and thus bring them into English.  After the jump, links to these and lots more.

 

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Freedom of worship or freedom of religion?

The citizen test given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services speaks of “freedom of worship.”  Senator James Lankford (R, OK) has been trying to get the agency to change the test and the study materials so that they refer to the “freedom of religion.”  The agency has finally agreed to do so.

Do you see the difference? [Read more…]

Leftists go from frightening to frightened

When someone chalked “vote for Trump” messages on the sidewalk, students at Emory University protested, saying seeing these words made them feel “frightened.”  The administration, playing the role of in loco helicopteris parentis, held their hands, offering counseling and promising to investigate who committed this brazen act of democracy.

Similarly, in Scripps College in California, someone wrote “Trump 2016” on a whiteboard, leading to charges of “racism” and the claim that the campaign slogan was an act of “violence.”  This is all of a piece with university students demanding “safe spaces” where they will be protected from any words or ideas that they find disturbing.

Leftists used to project a menacing swagger.  The old Marxists made posters of themselves as brawny workers with hammers and sickles and openly talked about “liquidating the bourgeoisie” (that is, exterminating the middle class).  In my day, the “new left” college radicals stencilled a clenched fist on sidewalks and whiteboards.  They taunted their opponents with “up against the wall, ************!” (referring to the use of a firing squad).

But now these “post-Marxist” leftists–who substitute race, gender, and sexual identity for the old left’s concern for economic justice and class struggle–are so timorous, so fragile, so easily frightened by opposition, that it’s hard to take them seriously. [Read more…]

An object lesson for St. Patrick’s Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a time to commemorate the former slave who escaped his masters, only to come back later to bring Christianity to the whole nation of Ireland.  By extension, it is a time to honor all missionaries.

St. Patrick, who lived in the 400s A.D., the time of the early church, was impressive for lots of reasons.  He is the author of the remarkable meditation/poem/hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  It includes these lines, calling on Christ to be present with him in every dimension of his life:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Applying so many prepositions to Christ reminds me of an object lesson that a Danish pastor offered at the conference I spoke at recently. [Read more…]

Has the word “evangelical” become meaningless?

Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore said that he is no longer referring to himself as an “evangelical.”  He says that today’s political opportunism and theological heresies have made the term meaningless, though he hopes it might come back.

Back in the Reformation times and still in Europe, “evangelical” referred to Lutherans, for whom the Gospel was central to all of their teachings, a term distinguished from the “reformed.”  Later in England, “evangelical” was used to refer to low church Anglicans, and later in America as a term for culturally-open fundamentalists, then for conservative Protestants generally, and then for Christians who emphasize “evangelism.”

It is still a slippery term.  Pollsters categorize Lutherans of the Missouri Synod as “evangelicals” because they emphasize the Gospel and the inerrancy of Scripture, while many Lutherans distance themselves from the term because it connotes non-sacramental, non-liturgical Christianity.

Moore approaches the terminology question differently, tying it in to Donald Trump’s candidacy, of all things.  What do you think of his analysis?  Should the term be retired?  Can you think of alternatives?

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Forbidding the use of “husband,” “wife,” “dad,” “mom”

A professor at the University of Florida is forbidding her students to use words like “husband,” “wife,” “dad,” and “mom” as being insufficiently inclusive. [Read more…]