scoundrel

The Hebrew that is translated as “scoundrel” or “worthless person” or similar in English is translated in Vidunda as “troublemaker” and Kutu as “very evil person.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

no one can speak to him

The Hebrew that is translated as “no one can speak to him” or similar in English is translated in Chitonga with the existing metaphor “he is like talking to a stone.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 131)

wicked, worthless

The Hebrew that is translated as “worthless” or “wicked” in many English versions is translated into Anuak as “whose head is bad” (1Sam. 25:17) or “people whose intentions are black” (i.e., greedy) (1Sam. 30:22).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1Sam 25:17)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the exclusive pronoun, excluding Abigail.

master (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

These titles are distinct from nominal titles such as “master.” This is evident from the forms such as go-shujin-sama (ご主人様) “master” or “lord” which is the combination of the nominal title shujin “master,” the honorific prefix go- and the suffix title –sama.

In some cases, it can also be used as go-shujin (ご主人), i.e. with the honorific prefix go- but without the suffix title –sama. You can find that in Genesis 19:2, 23:6, 23:11, 23:15, 24:51, 32:18, 39:8, 39:9, 44:8, 44:9; 1 Samuel 25:17; and 2 Kings 2:16 and 4:26.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 25:17

Now therefore: this translates the common Hebrew conjunction and the adverb Now, which are followed by the two imperative verb forms, know this and consider (literally “know and see”). These two imperatives sound almost too impolite to be used by a servant speaking to the wife of his master. Good News Translation softens this by adding the word “please.” But this does not really reflect anything in the original.

Evil is determined against our master: see the comments on this same idiom in 20.9. A passive meaning is conveyed by Revised Standard Version and certain other versions: “is planned” (Klein); “has been decided” (New Revised Standard Version). But in languages where the passive is impossible or unnatural, other models are available: “harm threatens our master” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh); “misfortune is in store for our master” (Anchor Bible). In some languages this will be worded as “bad things are surely about to come on our master” or “they [indefinite] are planning to do our master harm.”

All of his house: that is, “all of his family” (compare 22.15).

He is so ill-natured: literally “he [is] a son of Belial.” See the comments on 1.16, and see verse 25 below. The idiom “He’s a bully” (Contemporary English Version) communicates the idea well in English, but a better model may be “he has such a bad character” (La Bible du Semeur).

One cannot speak to him: literally “not to speak to him.” But the sense is clear enough. Nabal was such a mean person that “no one can say a word to him,” “who won’t listen to anyone” (Contemporary English Version), or “it is no good talking to him” (Revised English Bible).

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )