At first reading, can you understand the following sentence? I have given the pronouncement of the longer word so you can sound it out.

The boots and bonnets made of AL-oo-MIN-ē-um are in a queue to be dispatched by lorrie.

Yes, it is in English, but British English. And before I explain what it means, let me tell you a story about the importance of understanding a culture’s language and nuances of communication.

In 1983 Janet and I and our two young children spent the summer living in southern England. We were renting a flat from a couple. I was working odd jobs for them to buy books. They asked me to paint their fence. I needed clothes to paint in.

I asked the very proper Catholic wife if I could borrow a pair of her husband’s dirty, old pants to paint in. The blood drained from her face, her mouth dropped open and she gasped for words.

Had I said something wrong? I just wanted some pants in which to paint. Ah, later I found out I should have asked for “trousers.” In England “pants” mean “underwear”. Ouch! Now I realized why she was so shocked. I was embarrassed. I have misunderstood their language even though it was English.

I also in good humor called a friend in England a “bugger” because he was jousting with me. It was a humorous way of saying he was challenging me in conversation. It was like saying, “Why you rascal, you’re a real bugger!” It was said in all innocence and fun.

But in England “bugger” is a profoundly vulgar word which means one who sodomizes another – buggering. Again, sheepishly, I learned how important it is to understand the words, inflections, and language of a particular people, even when it is English.

This really comes into play when we pick up a Bible and begin reading in English when the original language of the Bible was NOT English but Hebrew and Greek and was written in very specific cultures with words and meaning and nuances we don’t have in English.

Placing ourselves in the conventions and way of life of other societies is crucial to be able to understand their life and communication.

This is so important with understanding the Bible. It is also crucial to understanding English, the original English.

So, what does this mean, “The boots and bonnets are made of AL-oo-MIN-ē-um in a queue to be dispatched by lorrie.”

In American English it means nothing. It is gibberish. But in British English, it means, “The car’s trunk and hoods made of aluminum are in line to be sent by truck.”

So, when reading the Bible, beware! For example, what does St. Paul mean, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28).

What does “faith” mean and what are the “works of the law” as understood by St. Paul. Ah, so much to learn and so many presumptions and assumptions and denominational interpretations to avoid. (see my blog HERE)

Another of my blogs that explains this further is HERE.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Bill912

    I was in Scotland some years back, when the desk clerk at my hotel told me I could take the “lift” to my room. As I stood there with a confused look on my face (possibly I was wondering how I could drive a car to the 4th floor), he pointed to the elevator.

    As George Bernard Shaw supposedly said: “The British and the Americans are two peoples separated by a common language.”

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