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 Ruth 2:10: A Cultural Commentary for Central Africa

Upon hearing that Ruth “fell on her face,” many receptors would come to the conclusion that she was either suddenly taken ill or that she was deathly afraid of Boaz. A rather different honorific gesture in the presence of an adult male would be employed among the Tonga; for example, to simply genuflect in ordinary cases, but to kneel when speaking to a male in-law on her father’s side. A woman would also kneel to avoid the normal custom of shaking hands with a man at times when she is ritually unclean, e.g., during menstruation. Ruth’s reply to Boaz should not sound as if she is insulting his kindness and concern for her; cp. Good News Bible: “Why should you be so concerned about me?” In many languages of Central Africa, “foreigner” is rendered by a word which has a wide area of meaning stranger, traveler, guest, etc. (as in the old Chichewa Bible). And since in local society “guests” in particular are received with honor and well cared for, Ruth’s surprise at Boaz’ good will toward her seems to involve a cultural contradiction. Indeed, Boaz would be remiss if he did not give Ruth special attention. Thus “foreigner” has to be translated as “outsider” (i.e., with respect to race, religion, nationality, etc. [Chichewa]) or “non-tribesperson” (Chitonga).

Source: Wendland 1987, p. 174.

complete verse (Ruth 2:10 - 2:13)

Following are a number of back-translations of Ruth 2:10-2:13:

  • Noongar: “So Ruth fell on her face and said to him, ‘What good did I do that you saw me and are merciful to me? I am a stranger.’ But Boaz replied, ‘Many people have told me everything you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband died. You left your father and mother and your heart land and came here, to a people you don’t know. May God bless you. May the God of Israel give you everything good because you come to shelter under his wings.’ Then Ruth said, ‘My lord, may I always be good in your eyes. I am not your worker, I am not like your young women, but you are good to me and speak gently to me.’” (Source: Bardip Ruth-Ang 2020)
  • Eastern Bru: “After Boaz said this, then Ruth bent down and bowed her knees in front for Boaz. And Ruth said: ‘You don’t have any responsibility toward me, so why should help me like this. I am a person from another country, so why do you still help me very much.’ But Boaz answered her: ‘I have heard already the good things you have done for your mother-in-law from the time that your husband died. And I know that you left your mother and father and the country of your birth. So you came to live with other people, people you did not know. All of these good thing you did, I ask God to give you every blessing. This God is the God of Israel. And you have believed him also. So now it is as though you were under the wing of God.’After that Ruth answered: ‘O sir! Please let me be favored in your sight. You have comforted my heart. And you have spoken well toward me as though I were one of your own servants. Even though I am not one of you servants.’” (Source: Bru Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “Ruth knelt to Boaz as (a) respect and said, ‘Why are you(sg) so very kind to me wherein I am actually/as-a-matter-of-fact just a foreigner?’ Boaz replied, ‘Someone(s) has told me (about) all that you(sg) have-done for your(sg) mother-in-law since the death of your(sg) husband, how you(sg) left your(sg) father and mother and the place where you(sg) were born in-order to live with the people whom you(sg) did- not -know. So may the LORD repay you(sg) for what you(sg) have-done. May you(sg) receive a big reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, whom you(sg) seek-refuge.’ Ruth said, ‘You(sg) are very kind/nice to me, sir, for you(sg) pleased me and have-spoken kindly even-though I am not one of your(sg) servants.’” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “When he said that, she knelt down in front of him in respect, with her face touching the ground. She exclaimed, ‘Why are you acting so kindly toward me, by paying attention to me? I am not even a Jew; I am a foreigner!’ Boaz replied, ‘People have told me all about what you have done for your mother-in-law. They told me that you left your parents and your homeland, and you came here to live among people whom you did not know before. I hope/desire that Yahweh will repay you for what you have done. You have put yourself in the care of Yahweh, like a little bird puts itself under its mother’s wings. I desire that he will reward you very greatly.’ She replied, ‘Sir, I hope you will continue to act kindly toward me. You have comforted/encouraged me, even though I am lower in status than any of your servant girls.’” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Ruth 2:10

The Good News Translation rendering Ruth bowed down with her face touching the ground represents a Hebrew expression which is often rendered literally “She fell on her face, bowing to the ground.” The two expressions (“fell … bowing…”) represent a measure of redundancy. The custom was that the person kneeled down in front of the other who was to be honored and inclined himself until touching the ground with his forehead, as the Muslims do during prayer. It is rare that one can translate literally “she fell on her face,” since this tends to be understood as being accidental rather than intentional. The Hebrew verb implies a downward movement which could be voluntary (for example, “descend from a chariot,” 2 Kgs 5.21) or involuntary (for example, “fall from a roof,” Deut 22.8). Here it is, of course, a voluntary movement. Some translators employ a phrase such as “to cast oneself down,” but this again is a rather strange rendering, since it seems to imply some kind of violent activity rather than simply homage and gratitude. Accordingly, Good News Translation employs the expression bowed down with her face touching the ground. In some languages it may even be necessary to translate “bowed very low, touching her forehead to the ground,” since in many receptor cultures this is the equivalent expression.

Said to Boaz must be rendered in some languages as “asked Boaz,” “inquired of Boaz,” since what follows is a question.

Be so concerned about translates what is in Hebrew literally “found favor in your eyes” (see comments on verse 2). The emphasis here is upon the favor which Boaz had shown to Ruth and thus “to be kind to” is appropriate. It is also possible to combine “kindness” with “taking notice of,” and so to translate “Why are you so kind as to take notice of me?”

In the Hebrew expression translated often as “take notice of me when I am a foreigner,” there is a pun on the roots of the verb and the noun. hakkireni and nakriyyah. According to Th. Nöldeke (k Neue Beiträge zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft, 1910, page 96) both items stem from the same root nkr with the meaning “als fremd, d.h. mit Aufmerksamkeit betrachten.” Recent dictionaries, however, rightly make a semantic distinction between two roots nkr I and nkr II. Some translators try to introduce a play on words in a corresponding English translation such as “to deal with me as a friend though I am a foreigner,” though in this instance there is very little resemblance between the sounds. A better example of assonance is to be found in German in the text of the Zürcher Bibel: “… und mich so freundlich beachtest? Ich bin ja nur eine Fremde.” It is always nice to be able to reproduce a play on words in a source language, but it is only rarely that one can do so with success. Attempts to reproduce a play on words frequently result in a rather artificial kind of expression.

A foreigner may be rendered in some languages as “someone not from this country,” “a person from a different tribe,” or “someone from a distant country” (or “another country”). In this context “distant” is purely a relative matter, but it is often used as a means of designating a foreigner.

The statement by Ruth that she is a foreigner is important in the development of the story. This prepares the ground for Boaz’s statement beginning in verse 11. Midrash Rabbah to Ruth, in referring to lehakkireni, already makes the future course of the story explicit: “she prophesied that he would know her in the way of all people” (i.e., as his wife).

Quoted with permission from de Waard, Jan and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Ruth. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1978, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .