gnash teeth, grind teeth

The Greek that is translated into English as “gnashed their teeth” or “ground their teeth” is translated in Pwo Karen as “their eyes were green/blue with anger” (source: David Clark), in Yao as “they had itchy teeth” (“meaning they very anxious to destroy him”) (source: Nida / Reyburn, p. 56), in Estado de México Otomi as “gnashed their teeth at him to show anger” (to specify their emotion) (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), in Coatlán Mixe as “ground their teeth in anger like wild hogs,” and in Rincón Zapotec as “showed their teeth (like a dog) because of their anger” (source for this and before: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.).

In Coatlán Mixe it is translated as “ground their teeth (in anger) like wild hogs,” in Rincón Zapotec as “showed their teeth (like a dog)” (source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), and in Gullah as suck dey teet or “suck their teeth.” (Source: David Frank)

In the the widely-used Mandarin Chinese Union Version it is translated with an existing Chinese proverb: yǎoyá qièchǐ (咬牙切齿 / 咬牙切齒) or “gnash teeth, grind teeth.” (Source: Zetzsche)

See also gnashing of teeth and contempt / scorn / ridicule / abuse.

Translation commentary on Psalm 35:16

The Hebrew of the first line of this verse is completely unintelligible; literally it seems to say (as the Revised Standard Version footnote has) “like (or, with) the profanest mockers of (or, for) a cake.” There are various explanations of this, most of which seem fanciful rather than possible. New American Bible has followed the Septuagint: “They made me suffer and jeered at me”; some, with a change in vowels in the first word in the Hebrew text, propose to get “When I faltered, they mocked me unceasingly”; New Jerusalem Bible “if I fall they surround me”; New English Bible has “brutes who would mock even a hunchback.” Good News Translation “Like men who would mock a cripple” seems to follow Hebrew Old Testament Text Project in part, which says that the Masoretic text says “among the wicked [men], mockers of deformity [that is, of one who is deformed]” (“C” decision).

In line b “they gnash their teeth at me” is an expression of anger and hatred (so also 37.12; 112.10); Good News Translation uses the less specific “they glared at me with hate,” since the purpose of gnashing of teeth may not be understood by the readers.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1991. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .