Lost in the Translation

idiom 2We all have phrases and jargon that are unique to our family, setting, job, or culture.

Common idioms that refer to people include:

  • A chip on your shoulder – means you think you know a lot
  • High as a kite – means you are drunk or on drugs
  • Sick as a dog – means you are very ill

Idioms that refer to your actions would be:

  • Rub someone the wrong way – meaning to annoy or bother
  • Jump the gun – would mean to be doing something early
  • Pay the piper – means you need to face the consequences of your actions

Some idioms use color words to convey other meanings. For example, there are several that use the word “blue:”

  • “The blues” can refer to both a style of music and feeling sad.
  • If something occurs rarely, it is said to happen “once in a blue moon”, because a blue moon is two full moons in one month, which doesn’t happen often.
  • “Out of the blue” means something happens that was unexpected.

We all know and use these — they are part of who we are.

There are certain things that happen in every culture and there are idioms to deal with them.

  • In Norwegian and Czech, “walking around hot porridge” refers to beating around the bush, which is also an idiom meaning not getting to the point.
  • If you are in Italy or Turkey and you say you are “as hungry as a wolf” then you are starving.

If it is raining in large amounts, most cultures have an interesting way of saying that:

  • In English, it would be “raining cats and dogs”
  • In Africa, they might say “it’s raining old women with clubs”
  • Many languages refer to heavy rain as coming in buckets or as rain coming out of a bucket.
  • In Norway they say “it’s raining female trolls”
  • The Irish say “it’s throwing cobblers knives”

Christians also have jargon.  We sometimes use terms that don’t mean anything to the outsider — and sometimes mean different things to different people within the Christian culture.

It is good sometimes to stop and consider just what we are saying — and ask how our audience is hearing what we say.  idiom

Why take time to talk about this?  If we truly wish to spread the good news of the gospel (there’s an example of an idiomatic phrase) then we must carry the burden of translating our Christian concepts into words the hearer and understand.   That’s part of why Jesus talked about sheep, seeds, and coins…..

Just a thought — are we being lost in the translation with the things we say during the Christmas season?   Tell the story in words and actions your audience will understand.


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