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.”

touch scepter

Where English versions tend to translate “touched the top of the scepter” (and the reader assumes that Esther touched the scepter with her hand), Tibetan says she touched it with her head, which is more respectful in that culture.

Mary / Martha / Lazarus (relative age), relative age of Mary and Martha and Lazarus

Many languages have terms for siblings that define whether one is younger or older in relation to another sibling.

In Fuyug, Tae’, Batak Toba, and Chinese, Martha was assumed to be the older of the two sisters because she is mentioned first. (Sources: David Clark [Fuyug] and Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Navajo translates accordingly but for a different reason: “since Martha seemed to take the responsibility of the housework, she was probably the older of the two.” (Source: Wallis 2000, p. 103f.)

In Fuyug Lazarus is assumed to be the oldest sibling on the grounds that he died first. (Source: David Clark)


For the Greek that is translated as “unmarried” in English, Bawm Chin has one word that applies to both sexes, but for the Greek that is translated as “widows” (and could include both sexes) it uses one for each sex. (Source: David Clark)

The translation into Papiamento also uses separate words for “widower” (biudo) and “widow” (biuda). (Source: Marlon Winedt)

minding one's own affairs

The phrase that is translated as “mind your own affairs” is translated in Kahua with an idiom: “don’t interfere with your noses.”

say whatever is given to you

The Ghari translation has “say whatever comes into your belly” for the phrase that is translated in some English versions as “say whatever is given to you.”

passive voice

Fuyug has no passive voice, so it was necessary to say who baptized Saul. The only possible agent in the text is Ananias, so he was specified.


There are no lions in Bawm country, so the Bawm Chin translation uses “a tiger with a mane” where the Greek term for “lion” is used and in Sranan Tongo the “roaring lion” in 1 Peter 5:8 is a krasi tigri, an “aggressive tiger.”

In the Kahua culture, lions are not known either so the Kahua translation used “fierce animal.”

In 1 Peter 5:8, the Uripiv translation uses “a hungry shark” instead of a roaring lion.

Sources: David Clark for Bawm Chin and Kahua, Japini 2015, p. 33, for Sranan Tongo, and Ross McKerras for Uripiv)


The phrase that is translated as “Moses’ father-in-law” was translated into Nepali as “elder brother-in-law.” Nepali has terms for older brother-in-law and younger brother-in-law and since here Moses is asking a favor, the term with added honorific seemed most appropriate.


The Greek that is translated as “adulterer” in English would imply “I only take unmarried girls” in Telugu, so it was necessary to be more generic and say “I don’t go after other women” (source: David Clark).

In Central Subanen an “adulterer” is “one who can’t be trusted” (source: Bratcher / Nida).

See also adulteress and adultery.