Honolulu Lite


Monday, May 28, 2001

So, wat? Dis kine
Bible bodda you?

I guess you could call it "Jesus to da Max" after the groundbreaking pidgin dictionary "Pidgin to da Max." The question is, why would anyone want to translate the New Testament into pidgin in the first place?

And as soon as you ask that, you realize it is not a fair question. There are certain things people do where it doesn't do any good to ask why, unless you want to get a clever answer thrown back into your face.

Why do people climb Mt. Everest? Because it's THERE. Why do parachutists jump out of perfectly good airplanes? If you gotta ask, you just don't get it. Why translate part of the Bible into what for many people is oral gibberish? What, brah, bodda you?

Besides, pidgin is not gibberish for many people, it's a lively, colorful language which should be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate a language than to use it to translate the Bible?

So a team of pidgin lovers, academics and linguists in Hawaii have published "Da Jesus Book," a pidgin translation of the New Testament. One reason they give for the pidgin translation is to reach out to those who may not understand the Bible in standard English.

Frankly, I don't buy that. I'd bet that anyone who can read pidgin can read English. I think they really came up with a pidgin version of the New Testament because it seemed like a cool thing to do.

Messing with any religion's sacred texts is a sure way to become very unpopular very quickly. Just ask Salman Rushdie. Every time any new version of the Bible is published, religious conservatives scream to high heaven. Converting the New Testament into pidgin, a language generally used in literature now for its humorous properties, is going to alarm some. I suspect that is part of the goal, to get people talking about the Bible.

Which is fine. If someone wants to spend thousands of hours translating the Bible into Esperanto, Morse code or Klingon, I say, go for it, have a ball. But you have to wonder how accurate the translation will be. In the pidgin version of the Lord's Prayer, "Amen" becomes "Dass it!" and "Deliver us from evil" becomes "Take us outa dea, so da Bad Guy no can hurt us." Bad Guy seems to be something of an understatement for true evil. And "Amen" seems to have more weighty connotations than simply "Dass it!"

The pidgin authors aren't the first ones to fiddle with the Bible. There are all kinds of Bibles in the world. At on the Internet, you can read versions from the King James to Young Literal to those in Spanish and other languages.

And in London, a Cockney version of the Bible just went on sale. Cockney is an British rhyming version of pidgin.

He's a sample of the Bible in Cockney: "And so Jesus made a Jim Skinner for 5,000 geezers with just five loaves of Uncle Fred and two Lillian Gish." I'm guessing that's the story of the loaves and fishes.

In Cockney, Goliath is called a "massive geezer." I suppose in pidgin he'd be called "dat beeeg bugga" or "da lolo haole." Hey, this is kind of fun. Maybe I'll give Genesis a try.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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