Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Against political correctness

They went and politically corrected the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible! By bending backwards to erase perceived gender-biasness, the new ‘improved’ version sacrificed literary merit for political correctness.


This passage is taken from Psalm 103:15-16 in NIV 1984:

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

And this is what happens when they tried making this passage gender-neutral in NIV 2011:

The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

This example uses the plural ‘they’ instead of ‘his’ to avoid reference to gender. Because subject-verb agreement still has to be maintained, don’t you think there is awkwardness in the grammar of subsequent imagery? I find myself lurching uncomfortably from singular to plural to singular, and this makes memorization more difficult.

In fact, I protest that the 2011 version strays from sound translation practices by adding an additional layer of interpretation to the original text. “Dynamic equivalence” is a poor excuse if this intervention is unnecessarily imposed to satisfy modern sensibilities.

I can’t help feeling too that some emotive effects are lost when the word ‘man’, part of our core vocabulary, is replaced with ‘mortals’, a more peripheral word. Being made of monosyllabic words, the rhythm of the 1984 version is more emphatic, while the complex noun ‘the life of mortals’ reduces the impact of the line when read as a poem.

After all, CS Lewis in his letter to young writers, says that we should always choose the simpler word over a difficult word, and there is good sense in such advice.

1 comment:

speedyrabbit said...

it doesn't mean the same,are they mental?