Translating Genesis: figures of speech

Figures speech are in many kinds texts, including legal texts. The late Justice Scalia saw “speech” and “press” in the First Amendment as “a sort synecdoche” (p. 38 here ). And several phrases in the Constitution, including “necessary and proper” and “cruel and unusual” are best seen as instances hendiadys . Figures speech are also pervasive in the Book Genesis. This is the sixth post in a series on “Genesis 1–11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators.” Here, I’ll discuss some figures speech in these chapters and how they affect the decisions a translator. First, there are several instances synecdoche and merismus. In synecdoche, a part stands for the whole. A variant synecdoche is merismus, in which there are two contrasting parts, often polar opposites, stand for the whole (e.g., “the heavens and the earth,” “day and night”). I’ll give one example affects translation. As discussed in an earlier post , in Genesis 1:11 most translations “vegetation,” but this one has the more specific and more exact “green shoots.” Recognizing the figure of speech synecdoche, a translator let the specificity of […]

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