the head slips from the handle

The Hebrew that is translated as “the head slips from the handle” in English had to be expressed much more specifically in Kutep.

Rob Koops tells this story: “I came across what appeared to be an ambiguity in this verse, which describes an axe-head slipping off its handle and killing someone. The Kutep word kujwo can mean ‘hand/arm’ or ‘handle.’ The first draft of the Kutep text had: rikae fwer ru wu kujwo, which could mean a) the axe slipped out of his hand or b) the axe (head) slipped out of its handle. On discussion, we found out that the drafter had used a culturally equivalent scenario, namely the axe slipping out of the user’s hands, which seemed to be more likely to him than the head coming off. We also discovered a word for the ‘head’ on an axe, so we can now describe the actual biblical scenario, which requires a different verb for slipping out, which is nwae ru. Finally, we discovered that by using a grammatical construction that describes an action that is unexpected and/or unwanted, we can enhance the elegance of the translation, which in idiomatic English now reads something like ‘the axe-head went and slipped out of the handle’ or ‘the axe-head slipped out of the handle on him.'”