Could a Hebrew text translation reveal where King Solomon’s treasures are hidden?

University of St Andrews professor, James Davila, is the first to translate an ancient Hebrew text, the Massekhet Kelim (“Treatise of the Vessels”), into English. Davila’s translation of the text, taken from the 1648 Hebrew book, Emek Halchah, reveals further information about the whereabouts of King Solomon’s treasures.

ark of the covenant

Image showing the Ark of the Covenant being carried, Auch Cathedral, France. Photo by I. Vassil, released into public domain through Wikimedia

King Solomon, the third King of Israel who ruled for 40 years from 965BC to 925BC, remains a popular figure from ancient history. He has been documented as being incredibly wise and a very extravagant king. The Book of Kings makes reference to his 700 wives and parts of the Bible claim that he composed 1005 songs and 3000 proverbs. Amongst the many treasures belonging to King Solomon, lost when his temple was annihilated by the Babylonians during 597 and 586 B.C., was the infamous Ark of the Covenant (a gilded case which was constructed almost 3,000 years ago, to hold the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses, by the Israelites).

Davila’s translation of the Treatise of the Vessels, the first ever translation to have been made of the text into English, brings to light a number of references which allude to the possible whereabouts of King Solomon’s treasures and the Ark of the Covenant. The snag is that the references made are vague to say the least and even Professor Davila himself believes that whoever wrote the original script in Hebrew was influenced in his/her writings by popular legends and a variety of scriptural interpretation methods that would have formed part of the traditional methodology used at the time.

However, at the same time as referring to the Treatise of the Vessels as “entertaining fiction,” Davila is also quick to note the striking similarities between what is written in the Hebrew text he has just finished translating and what has already been revealed through earlier translations of the “Copper Scroll.” The Copper Scroll, thought to be about 1900 years old, is made of copper and makes references to the location and contents of hidden treasures. Both artefacts refer to “vessels” or “implements”, made of silver and gold. One particular section of the Treatise of the Vessels translates to, “seventy-seven tables of gold, and their gold was from the walls of the Garden of Eden that was revealed to Solomon, and they radiated like the radiance of the sun and moon, which radiate at the height of the world.”

Davila believes that the writer of the Hebrew text was simply creating an entertaining story. He doesn’t believe that the writer created the text to act in any way as a map to help others find King Solomon’s lost temple treasures. Davila also believes that the style of the writing in the text also lends us some interesting insights into the many kinds of Jewish legends that were popular during the Middle Ages. Professor Davila is further quick to add that this text helps us to see the many ways in which people during the Middle Ages understood and interpreted the Bible and how these interpretations are not part of the official interpretations that we have studied over time.

Whether the text refers to the same hidden treasures or not, the actual location of such wealth is not revealed in the text at any stage. There’ll be no Indiana Jones-like crusade for Professor Davila in the coming weeks, but the translation does at least provide another entertaining piece of fiction… particularly for those with a real interest in ancient history and a fetish for rich, extravagant King Solomon.

Don’t be a nincompoop!

British English is full of fun and fanciful terms. The phrase, “Don’t be a nincompoop!” is just one prime example.

British termImage courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Nincompoop,” meaning fool or idiot, was traced back to its first usage in the 1670s by Jonson in his Dictionary of 1755. He believed the word to have come from the Latin legal term, “non compos mentis”, which translates to insane or mentally incompetent or not of sound mind. However, there are a number of etymologists who decidedly disagree with this explanation.

For example, some experts believe that “nincompoop” has actually developed from a proper name. Nicodemus, a derivation of Nicholas, has been cited as a possible example, as it was used in the French language to denote a fool.

Another band of etymologists, however, believe that “nincompoop” might simply be an invented word. The Oxford English Dictionary also believes that the origins of the word can be dated back to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and that there were a variety of versions of the word in use, including nicompoop and nickumpoop.

Folk etymology, like the kind John Ciardi from A Browser’s Dictionary uses to dismissively relate “nincompoop” to the Dutch phrase nicht om poep, which means “the female relative of a fool,” might hold some weight. “To poop” is an English verb used today to describe the action of going to the toilet, but in the past it was a verb which meant “to cheat” or “to fool.” This verb probably came from the Dutch verb, “poep”, which means “to shit” or “to fart,” which highlights interesting connections between the many meanings of these verbs.

According to Francis Grose’s slang dictionary of 1785, “nincompoop” has experienced a number of spelling variations. There have been recordings of nickumpoop, nincumpoop, nink-a-poop, ninkompoop, ninkumpupe, ninny-cum-poop. In Grose’s notes, “nincompoop,” regardless of how it is spelt, is the word used to describe someone, “who never saw his wife’s ****,” (the asterisks are printed, exactly as printed here, in Grose’s dictionary). An alternative etymology is offered by a later slang collector, John Camden Hotten, who in 1860 suggested the ‘corruption of ‘non compos mentis’ (not of sound mind).

Despite the uncertainty about the origins of the term, its use has always been pretty clear. “Nincompoop” is either used to refer to a fool or a simpleton. The “nincompoop” is a human being, lacking in intelligence and who flaunts his or her stupidity without shame in front of others. Favourable synonyms of the terms include, jackass, idiot, dunce, imbecile, or moron. Any term used to describe an ignorant simpleton can be replaced with the British phrase, “nincompoop”.

However, there are also a few instances in which “nincompoop” has been used to refer to something other than ignorant stupidity. “Nincompoop” has also been used to mean a suitor who lacks self-confidence and it was used by Thomas Shadwell in his 1672 play entitled, “Epsom Wells,” to refer to a hen-pecked husband.

It’s worth mentioning that “nincompoop” is still regularly used by the British in the 21st century in general conversation. It is used as a soft, teasing term amongst friends and loved ones, for the most part, rather than as a cutting term meant to cause pain to someone else or make them feel uncomfortable. The British love for silly-sounding words is probably one of the most important factors in the longevity of this particular 1670s phrase.

 

Where does the word Christmas come from?

“Christmas” is an Old English word, constructed from the combination of two words, namely “Christ” and “Mass”. The first recorded Old English version of the phrase, “Crīstesmæsse,” dates back to 1038, but by the Middle Ages the term had already morphed into “Cristemasse;” a slightly more modern version of the phrase.

Xmas

The origins

The two separate parts of the word can be traced back to Greek, Hebrew and Latin origins. “Christ” comes from the Greek word “Khrīstos” (Χριστός) or “Crīst,” and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the Hebrew word “Māšîaḥ” (מָשִׁיחַ) or “Messiah,” which actually means “anointed,” has also played a considerable role in the construction of the first part of the word “Christmas.” The second part most probably comes from the Latin word, “Missa,” which refers directly to the celebration of the Eucharist.

It is also believed that “Christenmas” is an archaic version of the word “Christmas,” whose origins can be attributed to the Middle English phrase, “Cristenmasse,” which when literally translated becomes, “Christian Mass.”

Christmas… the international holiday

Even though “Christian Mass” or “Christ’s Mass” refers to the annual Christian commemoration of the birth Jesus Christ, “Christmas” is an international holiday which, throughout the ages, has been celebrated by non-Christian communities and been referred to via a variety of different names, including the following:

  • Nātiuiteð (nātīvitās in Latin) or “Nativity” means “birth” and has often been used as an alternative to the word “Christmas”
  • The Old English word, Gēola, or “Yule” corresponds to the period of time between December and January and eventually became associated with the Christian festival of “Christmas”
  • “Noel” is an English word which became popular during late 14th century and which is derived from the Old French term “Noël” or “Naël,”  literally translating to “the day of birth”

“Xmas”… modern or ancient?

It’s also worth noting that, even though most people tend to view the abbreviation “Xmas” as a modern bastardisation of the word “Christmas,” “Xmas” is an ancient term and not a grammatically-incorrect modern construction. “X” was regularly used to represent the Greek symbol “chi,” (the first letter of the word “Christ”) and was very popular during Roman Times.

New Campagin for English Speakers: Learn 1,000 words of another language

English is widely recognized as, if not the most important language, at least one of the most important languages in the world. As such, there is a great interest in learning it. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are always in demand and non-native speakers are usually eager to find ways to improve their English. Unfortunately, native English-speakers do not often have the same enthusiasm for learning other languages. Perhaps the popularity and importance that the English language enjoys makes English-speakers feel that they don’t need to speak any other language. It isn’t surprising that the British, as well as other English-speakers, have earned a reputation of being lazy with respect to linguistic ability.

1000words

As a result, in Great Britain, a campaign has recently developed with the intention of opening Brits’ minds and ears to different languages. The “Speak to the Future” campaign encourages everyone to learn at least 1,000 words of another language. The 1,000 word figure was set because that is enough words to have a simple conversation yet it is a realistic and attainable goal for anyone.

The effort is an attempt to improve, not only the language abilities of Great Britain’s people, but also their cultural awareness and adaptability. Learning a language opens one’s eyes to the culture of the people who speak it. The British have suffered the reputation of being “lazy” when it comes to learning and speaking different languages. And not speaking different languages has probably limited their abilities to relate to different cultures. The campaign aims to prove that the people of Great Britain are ready to engage with the rest of the world and with the world’s many languages and cultures.

Great Britain isn’t the only place that is infamously known for its limited linguistic scope. The United States suffers a similar reputation because many Americans cringe at the sound of languages that are not English. There is evidence that this attitude may be changing, thanks to globalization. More and more, people in first world, English-speaking countries are realizing that the world is much greater than the limits of their national boundaries. As a result, they are seeing the importance of being able to communicate in different languages.

The movement is not without some resistance. Not everyone wants to learn a new language. As we referred to in a previous post, learning a language requires you to go out of your comfort zone. Doing so is necessary for growth and development, but many would prefer to not deviate from what is comfortable.

The popularity of the English language, throughout the word, has given native English-speakers a great excuse not to leave their linguistic comfort zone. The bad news is that it has limited them and prevented them from learning things that could enrich their lives. Efforts, such as this recent campaign in the UK, attempt to expand the horizons of native English-speakers who are otherwise comfortably sheltered from languages that could open wonderful new doors for them.

September 30: Happy International Translation Day!

Did you know that the Bible has been translated into 310 languages and that some of its text passages have been translated into 1597 languages and dialects? Did you know that the works of Lenin have been translated more often than Shakespeare’s dramas (321 compared to 93) or that Jules Verne was published in more languages that  Karl Mark (238 against 103)? And did you know that Asterix and Tintin have been both translated into 41 languages and dialects?

Who said that translators didn’t have a day to celebrate their profession? The International Translation Day is celebrated on 30th September on the feast of St Jerome, the bible translator. St Jerome has always been considered the patron saint of translators.

St. Jerome

The International Federation of Translators promoted celebrating St Jerome’s Day worldwide in 1953. All across the globe different celebrations and activities were organized to raise social awareness about the huge impact that translators and their work have on society: from users’ manuals to literature pieces to scientific discoveries, all of them can be globally known because a translator has made that possible.

Thirty-eight years later, in 1991, the FIT launched the idea of an officially International Translation Day to show the solidarity of the worldwide translation community in an effort to promote the translation profession in all countries, and not necessarily only in Christian ones.

The International Translation Day also offers us all with a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of translators and interpreters in the world as they often remain invisible and unacknowledged, despite their huge contribution to communication and interaction in all sorts professional and social spheres.

Why it’s Not Too Late to Learn a Language

A popular myth is that if you don’t start learning a language from an early age, you can never really learn it. If you choose to believe this, chances are that you will believe you are “too old to learn” and will not bother trying. Although children have an impressive capacity for learning more than one language, that doesn’t mean that adults can’t also achieve great things with a foreign language as well. However, as an adult, you will have to be firm with your inner (defiant) child who might be a little resistant to what is not familiar or comfortable. See, real children have adults who do this for them. Mom, Dad, Grandma, a teacher (whose lessons are not optional) or some authoritative figure guides their learning by communicating with them in the language. Children learn to communicate in the language because they don’t have a choice.

Adults, however, usually do have choice. They already speak one language and if speaking a different one feels uncomfortable or inconvenient, they can say, “I don’t speak _______,” and not make any effort to learn or try. This happens even with people who are consciously trying to learn a new language. As soon as it starts to feel “too hard,” they tell themselves, and everyone else, that they just can’t do it. Then, other people agree with them, which promotes and enforces the myth that it really is difficult for an adult to learn a new language. If you believe that you can’t do it, it is very unlikely that you will bother trying.

Another myth is that you have to be some kind of genius or have an Ivy League educational background to speak more than one language. If that is the case, then all those migrant workers and immigrants from humble villages of poor countries, who do unskilled labor for very modest salaries in foreign countries and learn a completely different language in the process, must be a lot smarter than you. Maybe they are and maybe they’re not. However, if they can learn a new language, why can’t you? The answer is probably because they have to in order to survive and you do not.

Although being an adult, in your comfort zone, can certainly serve as an “obstacle” if you let it, you also have a number of factors on your side.

You already have a solid base

If you learned anything about English grammar at any point during your educational history, you already have a linguistic base. You already understand the concept of verbs, nouns, articles, etc. It’s true that these are not exactly the same in another language, but at least it’s a start.

You understand how it can enrich your life

Even if you don’t need a foreign language in order to survive and even if no one is forcing you to do it, you probably understand what an additional language can offer you. In addition to opening doors for you professionally, speaking an additional language presents opportunities for exciting travel and cultural experiences. It will also help you appreciate new and different music and literature. Such benefits might mean little to a small child or adolescent, but they provide additional motivation to a sensible and curious adult.

You have more self-discipline

Although you might not have someone like a parent or teacher telling you that you have to learn, you have an idea of how it will benefit you and, as such, you will be more motivated to make the effort. That is, if you don’t buy into the myth that it’s “too hard.”

Machine Translation or Professional Translation?

Since Google Translate made its first appearance in the translation market, many people thought that translators had seen their days. In fact, many believed that these language professionals were no longer needed: why spend money in hiring their services when there was an automatic translation machine that could deliver the same results? But, is a machine translation as accurate as a human one?

Relying on a machine translation allows users to have a document translated in seconds whereas a human translator would take hours or even days to do it. However, speed has nothing to do with accuracy and this is quite an important point you should bear in mind.

How does automatic translation work?

Unlike language professionals that translate documents paying attention to the general meaning of the text and carefully choosing the most appropriate words and expressions and making sure the translated version sounds natural to the reader, in an automatic translation the software performs a literal translation of the text. In other words, the original document is generally translated into the foreign language word by word, without caring about the way in which sentences are arranged in that language.

As a result, the final version is many a time a collection of words stringed together with not much sense altogether.

Machine translation sample

A text translated by Google Translate

When can an automatic translation be useful?

Even though machine translations will never give you the feeling of a natural, well translated text, there are some occasions in which they can be useful.

Automatic translation is great for personal use, especially when you are pressed with time and need to have a general idea of what a text is about and it’s not worth to hire a human translator to do it.

Other occasion in which you can use an automatic translation service is to translate Facebook posts or Twitter messages. Many times, a foreign friend writes something in his mother tongue and you’re curious about it. Copying the text in Google Translate can easily solve the mystery.

When should you avoid an automatic translation?

Generally speaking, corporate texts (memos, websites, internal manuals, financial documents and so on) as well as medical, legal and technical documents should always be translated by a human translator. In these cases, accuracy is not only a must but also it is of utmost importance that the message reaches your audience strongly and clearly.

Literary works shouldn’t be translated by a machine either. These pieces of writing demand the cultural awareness, exquisiteness and common sense of a human translator. Only a translator can choose the most accurate wording to express the poet’s or writer’s message.

“Wasap” and “Wasapear”: New Additions to the Spanish Language

Languages are living creatures. They are not static; they grow, change and adapt to the current times thus adopting new words that express their speakers’ reality and discarding others that are not useful any longer. Over the last years, most of the changes that languages have experienced are influenced or triggered by the massive use of technology, the Internet and social networks and the impact they have on our every day life.

Spanish is not different from any other language and is also in constant change. In fact, two new words have been recently added to it: “wasap” and “wasapear”, the noun that refers to the free message sent via mobile phone from the application WhatsApp and its derived verb to refer to the action of exchanging messages via WhatsApp.

According to Fundéu, it is also correct to write “guasap” and “guasapear” although it is more appropriate to use the “w” versions of the words in order to respect their commercial origin.

Thus, “wasap” and “wasapear” have been added to the Spanish dictionary together with “tuitear”, in reference to the action of sending messages via Twitter and “tuit” to speak about the message sent through Twitter.

When a Bad Translation Affects Legal Rights

Unless you are in the legal department, you study International Law or you are a fan of American police TV series, the Miranda Rights mean nothing to you. However, if you have ever watched any chapter of Law & Order or CSI Miami and you have seen the scene in which the bad guy is being arrested, you have probably noticed that the detective or police officer always informs the detainee about his right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer. Those are the Miranda Rights.

In previous posts we have already discussed the importance it has for accused people facing a trial who do not speak the country’s language to be able to understand what they are accused of, their rights, their punishment and what is going on in the courtroom. This issue has reached the press once again as a bad Miranda translation led to overturn the conviction of an Oregon man accused of trafficking marijuana and weapons.

According to the news, the man had his Miranda rights improperly translated into Spanish. According to court documents, the detective doing the translation was a native Spanish speaker but, as it has been mentioned before, being fluent in a language does not mean that you are a good translator.

As the detective was reciting the Miranda rights to the Oregon man, he flubbed the part of the warning that states the suspect is entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. He used the Spanish version of the word “free” that means “freedom of action” (“libre”) instead of “at no cost” (“gratis”).

The Court stated that, even though the accused man was read both the English and the Spanish versions of the Miranda rights, he was not informed which one prevailed. In addition, they mentioned that the mistake meant that it was not clear whether the Government would provide him with a lawyer if he wanted to consult with one and he had no money to do so.

How to Keep Up With a Foreign Language

If this article has caught your attention, there are great chances that you love learning new languages and that, in fact, you can speak and write in a couple of foreign languages quite fluently. But, unless you live in a multilingual city in which you need to be constantly putting your language skills to the test, it’s really easy to lose fluency and forget vocabulary or expressions.

It is true that traveling is an excellent way of keeping up with a foreign language but it can be an expensive hobby and, besides, you can’t spend your whole life jumping from one place to the other.

Fortunately, there are many interesting and funny ways that can help you maintain (or even improve) your foreign language skills.

Pen-palling:

You may think that writing letters is old fashioned or boring, but it is a wonderful way of meeting new friends and making sure you don’t forget how to write in a language that is not your mother tongue. Besides, finding a letter amongst piles of bills and unwanted advertisements in the mailbox is really nice. Many a time, you combine writing letters to sending emails or sharing things in Facebook and other social networks and, needless to say, you can find your friend for a lifetime!

Join a Conversation Group:

Look around for groups in your area in which people with similar interests gather together to share their experiences. They are usually organized by native speakers that work as coordinators and ensure everybody in the group participates. These groups can deal with different subjects although it is more frequent to find those related to politics, literature or traveling. You can also find groups in language websites or in boards at your language school.

Take Advantage of Tech Gadgets

If you love having your tech gadgets at hand at all times, you can definitely use that love to your advantage. All of them can be set to a language of your choice so that you can practice it while checking your emails, your social sites and so on.

International Sign-Up

This is a great way of keeping up with any language you don’t want to forget. There are many pages that send you regular emails or articles in a foreign language. You can learn new words or see how an expression is used in the real world.

Enjoy the Movies

If you are a movie-guy, you can take advantage of your passion and watch movies in their original language or set the subtitles to the language you want to keep up with. If you have the chance of attending a theater play in a language that is not your mother tongue, don’t miss it! It’s an excellent way of putting your listening comprehension skills to the test while enjoying a cultural event.

Dine Out!

If you like dining out, why don’t you try to improve your gourmet tastes while improving your language skills? Eating at a German, Swedish, Italian or Japanese restaurant will probably give you the chance of interacting with native speaking waiters and guests, reading foods you don’t eat often in the menu and so on.