Some wag once wrote that the English language is so messed up that we can spell fish GHOTI. Trying to prove that there is no rhyme or reason to the way the language works, the author said that we can spell fish ghoti like this -the way we pronounce the gh in “enough”, the o in a word like “women” (the plural not the singular, and that is another issue) and the ti is the way we pronounce the ti in words line “nation”. I have often wondered what students trying to learn English do with words like “beard” and “heard”. Why is “good food” not pronounced “gud fud? If the language doesn’t take itself seriously why should we? I think the comedian Gallagher asked that question and it is a good one.
You get a feel for the differences in language when you are surrounded by people that speak three. The Kenyans speak their tribal language and Kswahili and English and sometimes the silliness of English comes out in the translation. One sermon that I preached on Psalm 113 stopped for awhile as the Kenyans tried to figure out a certain word – see if you can figure out which one –
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,the name of the Lord is to be praised. 4The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. 5Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, 6who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? 7He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 8he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. 9He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
If you thought the word that caused trouble was barren you would be correct. My translators could only think of “bears” and couldn’t get the context. It took a while before I figured it out and said, “a women that cannot have a child”. Last Sunday I preached on the good Samaritan and when I said that the Samaritan took the beaten man and bound his wounds and put him on his own donkey and took him to an Inn, he said that he was taken to the Diani Reef which is a rather posh hotel where we stayed.
I get that – Jesus is the good Samaritan and he wants us to have the best. His concern for us went to a cross and a tomb because he wants us to have the best, to have life and have it abundantly. Language cannot express that. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2 – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–. Language is inadequate, especially ours, but someday we shall know even as we have been known.