drink (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 that is translated as “drink” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-nomi (お飲み), combining the verb “drink” (nomi) with the respectful prefix o-.

(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.

complete verse (Genesis 24:46)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 24:46:

  • Newari: “She quickly put the pitcher down [and] said, ‘Have a drink, [and] I will also give water to your camels to drink.’ So I drank the water. She also put [out] water for the camels.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “She then lowered the jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Okay, [you (sing.)] drink, and I will- also -cause- your camels -to-drink.’ Therefore I drank, and then she had- the camels -drink too.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “She quickly lowered her jar and said, ‘Drink some! And I will draw water from the well for your camels, too.’ So I drank some water, and she also got water for the camels.” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Genesis 24:46

See verse 18. The servant does not report Rebekah’s addressing him as “My lord,” because it would be unsuitable for him to speak about himself in this way while relating these events to his master’s relatives.

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 .

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. )