stay / spend the night (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 (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “stay (overnight)” or “spend the night” or similar in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-tomari (お泊まり), combining “stay overnight” (tomari) with the respectful prefix o-.

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

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Gen 24:25)

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 the man.

complete verse (Genesis 24:25)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 24:25:

  • Kankanaey: “There is also a spacious place-for- you -to-overnight, and there is moreover fodder that the camels will eat and lots of straw also which will be their sleeping-place.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “There is room in our house for you and your men to stay. And we also have much straw and food to put out for your camels.'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “There is a place- you (pl.) -can-sleep-on/at there with us (excl.), and there is also plenty of straw and fodder/[lit. food-for-animals] for your (pl.) camels.'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Yes, we have room where you all can sleep tonight, and we also have plenty of straw and grain to feed the camels.'” (Source: Translation for Translators)

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 Genesis 24:25

She added translates “she said to him.” Revised Standard Version uses added to avoid repeating “said.” Good News Translation has placed “she answered” at the end of verse 24 so that it need not be repeated at the beginning of this verse.

Straw and provender: straw refers to the stalks or stems of grain that remain after threshing. In Mesopotamia straw was mainly from wheat, oats, or barley. Provender (Good News Translation “fodder”) refers to dry feed for domestic animals. In this case it was probably hay or oats. The use of the straw was to put down in the place where the animals would sleep; so straw and provender is sometimes translated “food for the camels and a place for them to sleep.”

Room to lodge in is an offer of space, a place. For lodge see verse 23.

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .