Had the Star Spangled Banner been in Latin…

Some item ago, I posted the quintessential old ICEL oration:

O God,
you are so big.
Help us to be big like you.

The blog Last Papist Standing posted a hypothetical pre-reconstituted, lame-duck ICEL translation of a hypothetical Latin original of The Star Spangled Banner:


It might go like this:

The sun just came up so look over there
the flag we saw last night is still up!
It had stars and stripes
and we could see it over the walls while we were fighting;
Once in a while when a bomb went off
We could even see it at night!
is the flag still flying here
where people have courage and freedom



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. irishgirl says:

    Oh my-good thing Francis Scott Key wasn’t around in 1970.

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    oh dear….. Just Imagine what God save the Queen would sound like

    God help our really cool queenie…

  3. Jack Hughes: Who says they would have even mentioned the Queen?

  4. The Cobbler says:

    Too much of the original gist of it is still in there.

    Take out half those lines and then it’ll be pretty close to how ICEL would’a done it.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    well the majority of ICEL countries are commanwealth countries

  6. paterpetri says:

    May the supernatural power of our understanding rescue our kind and merciful leader!
    May he or she live a long time!
    May the deity (if that is what you choose to call it) preserve the leader,
    Help him or her to be a winner,
    To be a happy and wonderful,
    And to serve us in public office for a long time.
    May the supernatural being (or force, or whatever it is) preserve the leader!

  7. TJerome says:

    According to Bishop Trautman, the National Anthem will now be comprehensible to Mary and Joe American!

  8. Jamus says:


    Absolootly quintessential ICEL!

    If I may, I’ll use this every time I’m asked (which has happened, and from people I thought should know better) Well what’s wrong with that translation?

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    Who says they would have even mentioned the Queen?

    Might use of the word “queen” have been prohibited by the (old) ICEL style sheet? As having unfortunate connotations in contemporary lingo.

  10. CarpeNoctem says:

    Paterpetri– I think you have too many unnecessary and gratuitous repetitions which are unnecessary for the clear meaning of your proposed text. Because I am time-locked in 1970, I will accept the use of the words “Queen” and “God”, hoping that in the next translation I may be able to get rid of such antiquated language… but for now they stay. The syntax is re-ordered so that the Queen assumes her rightful focus as the subject of the text:

    Our good Queen is protected by God.
    Let her live for a long time.
    She is a winner who is glad and bright.
    Let her work in our midst for a long time.


  11. paterpetri says:

    Carpe – Thank you for the suggested revisions. Your translation is far superior in terms of economy of words and in making our benevolent ruler the righful focus of the text. I am somehwat surprised, however, that a child of the seventies like yourself find it difficult to relinquish his sentimental attachment to such antiquated terms as “God” and “Queen.” Now I agree that the repetitions in my translation are both gratuitous and unnecessary, but are rather in keeping with the spirit of the original. But alas — for this is where I go awry — I must overcome my tendency to so slavishly adhere to both the letter and spirit of such outdated and pompous folderol. I must “get with it” as they say and instead convey the spirit of a new and glorious age!

  12. “Winner” makes an unfortunate, triumphalist value judgment. You should change it to “sharing” or “caregiver”.

  13. Iconophilios says:

    I hate to think of how O Canada! would have been butchered…

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    LOL. You forgot the goofy-looking outstretched arms and the handshaking. Quick everyone put your weapons down. Intermission, you silly Redcoats.

  15. CarpeNoctem says:

    Let’s go see them play.
    Buy me some candy.
    It doesn’t matter when we get home.
    We cheer for the home team,
    it sure would be sad if they lost.
    Watch them try to hit the baseball!

    [Wow, this is fun… it’s sort of like writing some kind of warped haiku. Father, might you have need of an English to 1970’s-ICEL-speak translationologist to help with your blog?]

  16. One of those TNCs says:


    Your version reminds me so much of those old “Dick, Jane, and Sally” books. Stilted, simplistic, saccharine. “Oh, oh, oh! See Dick play! See Dick play base ball. Fun, fun, fun. See Dick run bases! Run, Dick, run!”
    Hey, you’re right…this IS fun!

  17. lizfromFL says:

    LOVE this!

  18. bookworm says:

    The Pledge of Allegiance, ICEL version:

    I promise loyalty to the flag of America, one country under (gulp) God, with freedom for everybody. Amen.

    Another well-known baseball song (“It’s a beautiful day for a ball game…”) as reimagined by ICEL:

    It’s a great day to go to a ball game, fans are buying tickets all over the country. It would be nice to see a home run but a triple would be great too. Let’s cheer!

  19. LouiseA says:

    The “Our Father”, if ICEL had dared:

    Father above, Your name is holy and Your will is good. Feed, pardon, and keep us from danger. Amen.

  20. TonyLayne says:

    Can anyone play?

    Wide skylines, golden wheat fields,
    Tall blue mountains towering over orchards
    Make America beautiful.

    America, the Deity blesses you
    And makes your citizens brothers (and sisters).

    Yep, kinda loses something.

  21. Mike Morrow says:

    How about the Gettysburg Address?

    “Almost ninety years ago, our ancesters established in America a progressive government built from a responsible exercise of liberties and oriented toward the outlook that people are equivalent to each other.”


    I can see now how the liturgical hooligans and vandals of 45 years ago were getting their kicks.

  22. Slavishly accurate translations are going on in this post.

  23. Legisperitus says:

    I eagerly await the dynamic-equivalence translation of Shakespeare’s plays.


  24. Nathan says:

    I can’t….help….

    We acknowledge you, Canada, as our habitat and place of birth.
    We, your people, really like you.
    We are happy to see you doing well with fitness and lots of options.
    We ask God to help us be happy and have lots of options.
    We want to look out for you.

    In Christ,

  25. Nathan says:

    Or, how about La Marseillaise?

    We come to you, the country, as your people.
    We see the glory of today.
    We raise a flag because we are against injustice.
    We want you to hear the sounds of the mean soldiers
    Who want to hurt us.
    Come, people, get together and organize to prevent bad things from happening.

    In Christ,

  26. AnAmericanMother says:


    There IS a “contemporary” Our Father in the revision of the Episcopalian BCP, which was done just about the time the ICEL wreaked its havoc — and the two translations are much too similar for this to be mere happenstance.

    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your Name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread.
    Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those
    who sin against us.
    Save us from the time of trial,
    and deliver us from evil.
    For the kingdom, the power,
    and the glory are yours,
    now and for ever. Amen.

    . . . the Doxology certainly rings a bell, doesn’t it?

    The BCP “official” date is 1979, but the translations were done long before that. Beginning in the late 60s, we were force-fed various ‘provisional’ or ‘experimental’ prayer books, but the contents were a foregone conclusion.

    Every cloud has a silver lining — that was the beginning of my journey ‘cross the Tiber.

  27. irishgirl says:

    ‘warped haiku’-comment from CarpeNoctem.

    Oh, that’s funny!

    Some of these ‘creations’ are very, well….creative.

  28. Nathan says:

    AnAmericanMother: What, a substantive comment in the middle of our mockery?

    Seriously, you raise a very useful point. The experimental liturgies among Catholics in the 60s were similar in that the contents were a foregone conclusion.

    I was looking through the excerable Experimental Liturgy Book ed. by Robert F Hoey, SJ, 1969. Father Z had asked for an electronic copy of its cover a few weeks ago, and the book was sitting on my desk.

    What is fascinating is how many of those prayers, all made up from whole cloth, sound suspiciously like ICEL translations. For example, this was an excerpt from a “Canon of Death and Resurrection” by James K. Serrick, SJ:

    We come together to thank you, Lord God, to thank you especially in Christ Jesus, your dear Son. You called him and you sent him to us. And he answered your call so freely, so totally, that we are still overwhelmed at this example; and we still walk in the bright light he brought into this world, his world and ours.

    Dosen’t it sound like one of this comment thread’s “translations?”

    In Christ,

  29. Paul says:

    While really, really funny, I almost feel the need to take a shower after reading these postings. Instead, I think I will content myself with flipping through a 1962 missal until I recover my equilibrium.

  30. Emilio III says:

    I actually heard this from a very traditional Jesuit priest in the late 60’s who had been looking at some of the proposed “translations”:

    Hi Mary
    Full of Relevance
    You’re very much with-it
    Ans so’s the kid!

  31. ccrino says:

    If I remember correctly (I was just a young thing), there was an ICEL translation of the Our Father. It went something like

    Our Father in Heaven,
    your name is holy….

    I remember it side by side in the missalettes of the day, but you could never get people to switch from the Jacobean English they had known since babyhood.

    And then they just gave up that fight.

    However, I do wonder if that is exactly what is going to happen with this translation. A few years of trying to make people say “And with your spirit” and then just sighing and giving up.

    Which has less to do with the quality of the translations and more to do with what people are used to.

    Look at the Act of Contrition. The revised version of that came out in the New Rite of Penance sometime about 1975 and it is what I teach to kids, but I think that more people still know the “O my God, I am heartily sorry…” version. (Why don’t I teach that? Two reasons: it sort of operates from imperfect contrition and more importantly, most kids think it is “O my God, I am *hardly* sorry….” and it is better to just not go there.)

  32. AnAmericanMother says:


    I seem to recall “your name is holy” from one of the earlier ‘provisional’ translations. There were so many . . . all in cheap paperbound editions. We had the “green book” and the “purple book” and a bunch of others.

    I still remember our cranky choirmaster/organist looking down his nose and commenting acidly, “I am underwhelmed.”


    Are you sure that wasn’t Father Hooey?

  33. AnAmericanMother says:


    Sounds like our former parochial vicar’s paraphrase of the Marty Haugen “Agnus Dei” from the “Massive Cremation” —

    “Jesus, real cool guy” . . . you can actually sing it to the tune. He’s now the director of vocations, so there’s hope!!

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