Augustine attacks Jerome’s Vulgate for diverging from traditional fucked translations


A certain bishop, one of our brethren, having introduced in the church over which he presides the reading of your version, came upon a word in the book of the prophet Jonah, of which you have given a very different rendering from that which had been of old familiar to the senses and memory of all the worshippers, and had been chanted for so many generations in the church. Thereupon arose such a tumult in the congregation, especially among the Greeks, correcting what had been read, and denouncing the translation as false, that the bishop was compelled to ask the testimony of the Jewish residents (it was in the town of Oea). These, whether from ignorance or from spite, answered that the words in the Hebrew manuscripts were correctly rendered in the Greek version, and in the Latin one taken from it. What further need I say? The man was compelled to correct your version in that passage as if it had been falsely translated, as he desired not to be left without a congregation — a calamity which he narrowly escaped.

Transblawg is my favourite translation blog partly because it addresses in its own mysterious way this power and pragmatics thang. Like St Augustine, some of the fucked translators featured here have presumably calculated that the real-world benefits of getting it “right” will be buried by the costs, but too often the wussy masses of professionals (what a terrible word!) forget that translation is actually about blood, soil and bondage, and lose themselves in dreadful sub-literary online bonding.

Many thanks for all kind wishes re the malfunctioning ear. It still appears to have a considerable portion of the Mediterranean sloshing around in it, but a visit to A&E seems to have begun to correct the screw-up made by the GP, and it hopes to hear the sound of beer being poured in the next week or so.

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  1. Sounds like the 'almah vs betulah vs parthenos debate, well the oldest in the history of translation. Just maybe the other way 'round.

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