Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by David Crystal

By David Crystal

"Let there be light," "A fly within the ointment," "New wine in previous bottles," "How are the potent fallen," "The salt of the earth." these kind of daily words owe their reputation to the King James Bible. certainly, it truly is stated that this remarkable Bible has contributed extra to the colour and style of the English language than nearly the other literary source.

In Begat, best-selling language specialist David Crystal deals a stimulating journey of the verbal richness and excellent achieve of the King James Bible. How can a piece released in 1611 have had this sort of lasting effect at the language? to respond to this question, Crystal deals interesting discussions of words similar to "The dermis of one's tooth" or "Out of the mouth of babes," tracing how those memorable strains have came across self sufficient existence within the paintings of poets, playwrights, novelists, politicians, and newshounds, and the way extra lately they've been taken up with enthusiasm by way of advertisers, Hollywood, and hip-hop. He exhibits, for example, how "Let there be gentle" has resurfaced as "Let there be lite," the identify of a vitamin cookbook, and "Let there be flight," the identify of a piece of writing approximately airport delays. alongside the way in which, Crystal reminds us that the King James Bible owes a lot to past translations, significantly these by way of Wycliffe within the fourteenth century and Tyndale within the 16th. yet he additionally underscores the most important revisions made by way of King James's group of translators, contrasting the memorable "Am I my brother's keeper" with Wycliffe's "Am I the keeper of my brother."

Language fanatics and scholars of the Bible might be both enthralled by means of Begat and its enticing examine the intersection of faith and literature.

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Example text

The rhythm of King James, also found in Bishops, would have made this much more appealing than Tyndale’s which were of stone, and that is how the phrase is most often used today. It’s not written in (tables of) stone, someone might say, advocating a flexible way of behaving. Surprisingly, the phrase doesn’t appear in a very wide range of figurative contexts. It’s used in more literal settings, such as the name of a firm specializing in stone table countertops or in the name of a book about rock formations.

There’s relatively little we can do with for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (3:19), for example. The expression is widely known because it’s used in several religious events, such as in the Christian ceremony of Ash Wednesday. It is echoed in the burial service: ashes to ashes, dust to dust . . The tone of the original also militates against flippancy. Having said that, we do occasionally encounter nonbiblical applications. The presence of dust particles everywhere has given it a certain presence in articles about global warming and space exploration.

And probably it is the twentieth-century sado-masochistic sense of bondage which has restricted the present-day take-up of house of bondage (20:2). Apart from in sexual contexts, I’ve found it only in works to do with slavery and in relation to astrology (where it is one of the names for the twelfth astrological house). Finally, in relation to the ten commandments, we mustn’t forget the phrase tables of stone, used in 31:18 when Moses is given two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

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