camel

The Greek that is translated in English as “camel” is translated in Muna as “water buffalo.” René van den Berg explains: “Camels are unknown; the biggest known animal is the water buffalo (though now rare on Muna).”

In Bislama is is translated as buluk: “cow” / “bull.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

barn

The Greek that is translated in English as “barns” is translated in Muna as “attics.”

René van den Berg explains: “There are no barns or granaries on Muna. Maize (the staple food) is stored in people’s attics.”

wolf

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “wolf” is translated in Muna as da’u ngkahoku: “forest dog,” because there is no immediate lexical equivalent. (Source: René van den Berg)

In Asháninka, it is translated as “ferocious animal,” in Waffa as “wild dog,” and in Navajo as “Coyote.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)

In Lingala it is translated as “leopard.” Sigurd F. Westberg (in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 117ff.) explains: “The wolf, for example, does not exist here, but its relative the jackal does and we have a name for it. But the jackal does not prey on domestic animals as the wolf did in Palestine, nor is he as fierce. The equivalent from these points of view is the leopard. Hence in Genesis 49 Benjamin is likened to a ravenous leopard, and the basic meaning is approached more closely than if we had been governed by scientific classification.”

Mungaka also uses “leopard” (see also bear (animal)) (source: Nama 1990).

snow (color)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated in English as “(as white as) snow” is translated in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec as “(as white as) volcano frost,” the only white kind of frost that is known in that language. (Source: Nida 1947, p. 160.)

In Obolo it is translated as abalara: “white cloth” (source: Enene Enene), in Bambam as “like the white of cotton” (source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500), and in Muna as “white like cotton flowers” (source: René van den Berg).

See also frost.

altar

The Greek that is translated as “altar” in English is translated in Obolo as ntook or “raised structure for keeping utensils (esp. sacrifice),” in Muna as medha kaefoampe’a or “offering table,” and in Tzotzil as “where they place God’s gifts” (Source: Obolo: Enene Enene; Muna: René van den Berg; Tzotzil: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.).

cast a net

The Greek that is translated as “casting a net” in English has an immediate equivalent in Muna with buani: “to cast a (circular) net.” René van den Berg: “In this instance the Muna translation is possibly more graphic than the English, which leaves the nature of the net rather vague.”

desert, wilderness

The Greek that is translated as “desert” or “wilderness” in English is translated as “a place where noisiness is cut off (or: stops)” in Mairasi and “big barren-field” (pandaso bhalano) in Muna.

Sources: Mairasi: Enggavoter 2004 and Muna: René van den Berg.

See also wilderness.

for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks

The Greek that is translated as “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” or similar in English is translated in Muna as “what comes-out at the lips, it comes from the fullness/overflowing of the heart.”

René van den Berg explains: “It is very impolite in Muna to mention someone’s mouth (wobha) or tongue (lela). The words themselves are not taboo or obscene, but in combination with a possessor they are frowned upon and should be avoided. In fact, if you want to abuse someone, you should refer to his or her mouth or tongue. The implications for translation are obvious (…). [Sometimes] ‘mouth’ was replaced by ‘lips’ (wiwi), a perfectly acceptable term, even when possessed.”

let no evil talk come out of your mouths

The Greek that is translated as “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths” or similar in English is translated in Muna as “In your speech, do not use rude/foul words.”

René van den Berg explains: “It is very impolite in Muna to mention someone’s mouth (wobha) or tongue (lela). The words themselves are not taboo or obscene, but in combination with a possessor they are frowned upon and should be avoided. In fact, if you want to abuse someone, you should refer to his or her mouth or tongue. The implications for translation are obvious (…). [Sometimes] ‘mouth’ was replaced by ‘lips’ (wiwi), a perfectly acceptable term, even when possessed.”

miracle, miraculous power

The Greek and Hebrew that are often translated as “miracles” or “miraculous powers” into English are translated as “things which no one has ever seen before” (San Blas Kuna), “thing marveled at” (Tepeuxila Cuicatec), “breathtaking thing” (Ngäbere), “long-necked thing” (referring to the onlookers who stretch their necks to see) (Huautla Mazatec), “sign done by God’s power” (Mossi), “supernatural power” (Javanese), “things that have heaven-strength” (Highland Totonac) (source for all above: Bratcher / Nida), “amazing thing” (Muna) (source: René van den Berg), or “impossible things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004).

See also wonder.

flute players

The Greek that is translated in English as “flute players” (who were hired to express grief) is translated in Muna as “flute players” as well but has an explanatory note in brackets following the translation “[as-a-sign of grief].”

René van den Berg explains: “Music on Muna is always associated with joyous occasions, and to indicate that the presence of the flute players was perfectly normal then (such people were often hired musicians) the explanatory note in brackets was added.”

See also flute.

devil

The Greek that is translated in English as “devil” is sometimes translated with indigenous specific names, such as “the avaricious one” in Tetelcingo Nahuatl or “the malicious deity” in Toraja-Sa’dan. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Yoruba it is translated as èṣù. “Èṣù is thought of as bringing evil, but also as giving protection. The birth of a child may be attributed to him, as the names given to some babies show, Èṣùbiyi (Èṣù brought this forth), and Èṣùtoyin (Èṣù is worthy of praise).” (Source: John Hargreaves in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 39ff.)

In Muna, it is translated as Kafeompu’ando seetani: “Master of the evil-spirits” (source: René van den Berg) and in Mairasi as owe er epar nan: “headman of malevolent spirits” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Huehuetla Tepehua
as “chief of demons,” and in Ojitlán Chinantec as “head of the worldlings” (source for the last two: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125).

In Lak and Shughni it is translated with terms of feminine gender. Vitaly Voinov tells this story:

“In the Lak language of Dagestan, the names ‘Iblis’ and ‘sheytan’ (referring to Satan and his minions, respectively) in this language were borrowed from the Arabic Islamic tradition, but they entered Lak as feminine nouns, not masculine nouns. This means that they grammatically function like nouns referring to females in Lak; in other words, Laks are likely to think of Iblis as a woman, not a man, because of the obligatory grammatical patterning of Lak noun classes. Thus, when the team explained (in Russian) what the Lak translation of Jesus’ wilderness temptation narrative at the beginning of Matthew 4 said, it sounded something like the following: ‘After this, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Iblis… .The temptress came to Jesus, and she said to Him…’

“Since this information (that the devil is a female spirit) is part of the very name used for Satan in Lak, nothing can really be done about this in the translation. The Lak translator did not think that the feminine gender of Iblis should cause any serious misunderstandings among readers, so we agreed to leave it in the translation. Prior to this, I had never heard about languages in which the devil is pictured as a woman, but recently I was told by a speaker of the Shughni language that in their language Sheytan is also feminine. This puts an interesting spin on things. The devil is of course a spirit, neither male nor female in a biologically-meaningful sense. But Bible translators are by nature very risk-aversive and, where possible, want to avoid any translation that might feed misleading information to readers. So what can a translator do about this? In many cases, such as the present one, one has to just accept the existing language structure and go on.”