honorific (Gen. 12:11), vocative (Gen. 12:11)

The phrase that is translated as “he said to Sarai his wife” into English presented a problem in Falam Chin. Hebrew contains no vocative (a case used in addressing or invoking a person or thing), but Falam requires one for politeness, and its absence is rude. The normal way for a husband to address his wife is “mother of X” but Sarai is childless. The Falam Chin translation ended with a sort of vocative substitute: “Let me tell you what is in my heart.”

unstable as water

The phrase that is translated as “unstable as water” or “turbulent as water” is not a natural Falam Chin comparison and is conveyed as “like a mountain stream rising and falling.”

mother's sons

In Falam Chin “your mother’s sons” sounds odd to a patrilineal society. As Rebekah had only one son, it is possible to say here “your brother’s descendants,” avoiding the word for “older brother” since Isaac thinks he is speaking to Esau.

tar and pitch

The phrase that is translated in some English versions as “tar and pitch” is rendered in Falam Chin with a phrase meaning “resin and beeswax.”


The Greek that is translated as “adultery” (typically understood as “marital infidelity”) in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:

  • Highland Totonac: “to do something together”
  • Yucateco: “pair-sin”
  • Ngäbere: “robbing another’s half self-possession” (compare “fornication” which is “robbing self-possession,” that is, to rob what belongs to a person)
  • Kaqchikel, Chol: “to act like a dog”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan: “to measure the depth of the river of (another’s) marriage.”
  • Inupiaq; “married people using what is not theirs” (compare “fornication” which is “unmarried people using what is not theirs” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • In Purari: “play hands with” or “play eyes with”
  • In Hakha Chin the usual term for “adultery” applies only to women, so the translation for the Greek term that is translated into English as “adultery” was translated in Hakha Chin as “do not take another man’s wife and do not commit adultery.”
  • In Falam Chin the term for “adultery” is the phrase for “to share breast” which relates to adultery by either sex. (Source for this and three above: David Clark)
  • In Ixcatlán Mazatec a specification needs to be made to include both genders. (Source: Robert Bascom)

See also adulterer and adulteress.

woman (Jesus addressing his mother)

Hre Kio reports on the translation of the Greek word into Falam Chin that is translated as “woman” in English, specifically when it refers to Jesus addressing his mother (see The Bible Translator 1988, p. 442ff.):

“No child would call his parents by their names, either half name or full name, in private or in public. To do so would show disrespect of a high degree. It would be an open insult. The only possible situation where the children might address their parents by name would be where a combination of an endearment title and the name was used as a form of introduction, and the listeners were people not familiar with the parents. For example, the son Za Hu can introduce his father to an unfamiliar audience by saying, ‘This is my father U Kaw Kaw. . .’ If he does it without saying ‘my father,’ Za Hu is creating a distance between himself and his father, but not disrespect. If he addresses his father as ‘Man!’ and his mother as ‘Woman!,’ he is in real trouble. He would be creating an image of being uncultured, disrespectful and downright contemptuous.

“That is precisely the situation we find in John 2:4 and 19:26, where Jesus addressed his mother as ‘woman’ (Greek gunai). To translate this utterance literally would be Nunau in Falam Chin, and this would be offensive to Falam readers. Although we find the same utterance in John 20:13, by two angels who say to Mary, ‘Woman, why are you crying?,’ this is not as offensive as the other uses. The difference lies in the person who said it. For the angels to say to the woman “Woman,” is acceptable. But for the son to say ‘Woman’ to his mother demonstrates utter disrespect and contempt or even extreme anger. That is precisely what we found the text of John put in the mouth of Jesus. But is that actually what Jesus meant when he said ‘Woman’? Fortunately, we are told that ‘Jesus’ use of ‘woman’ (RSV) in direct address was normal and polite. . . It showed neither disrespect nor lack of love. . .’ (quoted from: Newman / Nida 1983). In Falam, the word ‘woman’ Nunau, will have to be avoided and replaced by Ka Nu, meaning ‘My Mother.’ This is the only choice possible in the situation. ‘Woman’ (Nunau) would be insulting, and ‘mother’ Nu Nu would be childish.”