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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lost in translation...

I was doing a little research on Romani (Gypsy) mythology following Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave, and stumbled onto something most extraordinary. Apparently, Roma word for "god" is "devla" or "devel" (kind of like English word for god is... well "god" and Russian word for god is "bog"). The word was around before the Romani adopted Christianity and was applied to Christian god once they did. Of course, in many languages of Romance-Germanic group, the same or similar words stands for "devil" or "satan". Those of us who are fully bi-lingual and do a lot of translating, call such words "a translator's false friends". It makes me wonder how many innocent people of the Romani origin may have been imprisoned, tortured and executed for devil worship, because some uneducated idiots stumbled into what was essentially a good old mass carried out in Roma language.

Here is another linguistic hiccup that may have cost many lives. The King James version of Exodus 22:18 states, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." The other versions are basically to the same effect. The interesting thing about this that in the Hebrew version of the Old Testament the author used the word "m'khashepah", which stands for someone using evil spells to harm others. The New Testament, however, (Galatians 5:19-20) uses the word "pharmakia" - poisoner. Not suffering a poisoner to live is a different matter entirely and very understandable. King James' interpreters, however, opted to use the word "witch". And so it went to those who considered this version of the Bible a "literal word of God" (a pieced-together translation of a translation of a translation) and brought countless midwives, village healers, and herbalists to the stake.

I suppose this should serve as a lesson to us all to be careful in citing sources and relying on texts and ideas, whose origins are ambiguous and difficult to trace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You do know that the Roma word for God it derived from Devi or God in Hindi, the root language for the Tribes. And yes, the difference in translation is still causing trouble for the Witches of the world. I still can't convince a number of folks at church that the word was poisoner until it was mis-translated.