Don’t like the new translation? You have an option!

The discontents who are whining about the new translation as being deficient or flawed or ugly or mean or vulgar or awkward always have an option.

Ignore the new translation and just use Latin.

Latin can protect you from the affliction of vulgarity.

The Laudator has an interesting entry on this:

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2001), p. 334 (tr. by Stephen at Don Colacho’s Aphorisms):

The classical languages have educational value because they are safe from the vulgarity with which modern life corrupts the languages that are in use.

Las lenguas clásicas tienen valor educativo porque están a salvo de la vulgaridad con que la vida moderna corrompe las lenguas en uso.

Marc Antoine Muret (1526-1585), Orationes, vol. 2, no. 22, included in A. Springhetti, Selecta Latinitatis Scripta (saec. xv-xx) (Rome, 1951):

Therefore those languages that depend on the whim of the ignorant multitude die each day, and are born each day. But those languages that the usage of learned men has rescued from the slavery of the crowd not only are alive, but have in a certain way achieved immortality and immutability.

Illae igitur linguae quotidie moriuntur, quotidie nascuntur, quae pendent ex libidine imperitae multitudinis: quas autem ex populi servitute eruditorum usus vindicavit, illae non vivunt tantum, sed immortalitatem quodammodo et immutabilitatem adeptae sunt.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Simply opting for the original tongue, when there are scruples over the suitability of a translation, is often is the best option. During my time in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, I have come across many very, very bad English translations of the service books. There were times when I couldn’t tell if they were intentionally bad and politically correct, or if the translator really didn’t understand English. For example, a common theme in the hymnography and hagiography for female Saints, is how the relative weakness of their sex was so thoroughly overcome, that even most men are put to shame by these women’s personal fortitude, ascetic feats and fearlessness in the face of death. I was chanting the Matins service for one of these Saints in a certain parish, and the English translation in front of me read something like this: “Like a weak person, she bravely challenged her foes…” I knew that couldn’t be right, so I looked over to the left, to the Greek side of the page. The actual sense of the Greek, was something more like: “Though she was but a weak woman, she contended manfully with her foes.” I still don’t know if the translator was embarrassed of the Church’s Tradition about gender roles (and some obvious socio-physical facts about the sexes, generally speaking), or if he was, in all honesty, unable to translate into English.

    Of course, in the Orthodox Church things are a bit less regulated. And, since the service books have lots of theological teaching, which is good for the people to hear, I would try to “correct” the translation as I went along (if I could; often I’m not good enough with Greek to translate on the fly), and put it into English for the parish. But, in the Monastery – where lots of theological teaching is absorbed in many places – I would often just use the Greek if we only had bad translations for a particular occasion. (The Orthodox Churches don’t have good, clean, critically edited translations for all the services in English; a random assortment of informal and unprofessional translations are in common use throughout the Anglophone Orthodox Churches, once one goes beyond the main service books.)

    The great benefit of simply using the original, is that the languages are venerable and beautiful, and all the distractions which can occur when one is hearing (and evaluating) a very familiar and vulgar tongue, disappear. There is a kind of peace and carelessness (in the sense of “lack of worldly cares”), as one simply receives the text, settled and approved and sanctified as it is – often coming straight from a Saints’ pen that way, and then chanted by centuries of Saints and righteous men, more or less as we have it. The original text is beyond our likes or dislikes; just as we go about our business knowing that the sky is blue, while also spending little of our conscious thought on the fact, so we go about the Latin Mass or Greek Liturgy knowing the text is an established and hallowed masterpiece, but with a kind of holy forgetfulness of the fact. We employ the text, and go straight through it to the heart of the matter without a second thought for this or that turn of phrase. Or, if we are ever made aware of the text itself, it is because we are stricken with a sudden admiration for its sheer perfection in this or that place. Just like, if we ever do take particular notice of the sky’s blue-ness, it is to wonder at it!

  2. Daniel Latinus says:

    I forgot who said this, but the point was worth remembering:

    “Latin and Greek are not dead languages; they have merely ceased to be mortal.”

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