woman

Hre Kio reports on the translation of the Greek word in 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 or 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.”