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A Bit of English Irony

November 28, 2008

Better Bible Blogs posted Mark Strauss’ Evangelical Theological Society paper entitled  “Why the English Standard Version (ESV) Should not become the Standard English Translation.” I found this statement in his conclusion rather ironic:

I would recommend that the ESV committee enlist competent English stylists to carefully review the entire text with an eye toward standard English idiom.

I know I’m being pedantic,  but it’s humorous to see someone criticizing a translation’s English style while splitting an infinitive.

For the record I’m not a big fan of the ESV either. I can’t really use an androcentric translation in my line of work.

  1. November 28, 2008 1:59 pm

    Jim, there is nothing wrong with splitting English infinitives. That prescriptivist rule was apparently created by English teachers who thought that English infinitives acted like Latin infinitives, which, obviously, could not be split because they are single words. But English infinitives are separate words and, for millions of English speakers, splitting them with adverbs sounds like good English. And it is good English because the adverbial modifier can be closer to the word it modifies, which makes good logical and literary sense.

    We need to move away from prescriptivist rules which have little to do with proper English and, instead, follow descriptive rules, which result from scientific observation of the language patters which speakers of a language actually practice.

    Thanks for the link to our ESV series. We hope that it has benefitted a number of readers.

  2. November 29, 2008 12:02 pm


    I’m well aware of the age old prescriptive/descriptive grammar debate. But, I’ve also taught writing classes at university for years. A scientific observation of the language that most of my students speak and write would show that they know an entirely different dialect of English. Not something I’d was to use as a model of proper English.

    Regardless, I think the series is great. There’s plenty of room to clean up all of the major translation projects, and it’s good to get this information out to an audience wider than ETS.

  3. November 29, 2008 3:54 pm

    I heard somewhere that the motto of the translators of the ESV was: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

  4. November 30, 2008 11:33 am

    Oooh, it pains me!

    Actually, the HCSB seems to have had that motto as well, as evidenced by their translation of Josh 1:7

    Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you.

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