October 18, 2012

Words Tyndale Invented

Update (10/18/12): A helpful & courteous web-surfer just alerted me to the following examples, apparently from David Daniell's introduction to a 1989 republishing of Tyndale's New Testament (with updated spellings). Google Books doesn't show me the page with the list, but here are some words from the list my new friend just sent.

Beautiful, Fisherman, Landlady, Seashore, Stumbling block, Taskmaster, Zealous, Jehovah, Passover, Scapegoat, Atonement, Modesty, Mediocrity, Industrious, Long-suffering, Peacemakers

When I had only heard *that* this occurred, my original interest was to wonder which *kinds* of words Tyndale had coined. In particular, I wondered if we owed many theological terms to his personal creativity. The list here suggests these were mostly common words, and generally seem to innovate along the lines of creating new compound words or word endings.

Other than passover, scapegoat and atonement, I don't see anything particularly theological on the short list here. From the number of words (I have heard) Tyndale supposedly coined, there may be much more. Among the phrases my new friend also passed on: gave up the ghost, salt of the earth, salt of the earth, and Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us. Again, none of these seem to be more than straight and common sense translations of phrases which had supposedly not appeared in English before... which makes me wonder what Wycliffe had written in these places. (?!?!?) Or does Wycliffe's language somehow count as middle english, whereas Tyndale came in right before Shakespeare, making the whole topic at hand little more than a (somewhat artificial) category distinction?

At the very least, my new friend confirms that David Daniell's work is the place to begin looking for more information. Obviously, I still don't have time to pursue this any further, but hopefully the next person who googles this page will be encouraged, knowing where to look next. If so, please send back some information. I would love to know more.

The original post I wrote, in September of 2009, now follows:
The contribution of William Tyndale is inestimably great, and I feel a great personal devotion to his poor, still confounded ploughboy. But I have one nagging suspicion about Tyndale. I was told once - and don't know if it's true - that he invented thousands of words in doing his translations. So far, I can only verify the word 'scapegoat', but wondering what else he made up sometimes bugs me, just a little.

Someday, I would like to find a list of other such words, but it may not exist. Leading Tyndale scholar David Daniell may know. If anyone knows anyone at University College in London, somebody should ask him. But now that I think about it, my interest is probably broader than Tyndale. I want to know, from Wycliffe to Webster, what words entered the English language simply because someone needed to translate scripture in a new way they thought would be more accurate, or more helpful.

I guess someone could computer scan the OED and cross reference it with early English translations, but Daniell said "the great Oxford English Dictionary has mis-attribued, and thus also mis-dated, a number of [Tyndale's] first uses." Sounds like it would actually be a pretty complex research project. Has anything like this been done? Or is anyone working on anything like this at all? If you know, please do tell...


J. L. Watts said...

Bill, David Daniell's book could possibly be credited for opening my eyes to translation issues with the KJV.

And frankly, Tyndale is under appreciated today.

Bill Heroman said...

So you don't have a list then, eh?

J. L. Watts said...

Have you read Daniell's book on The Bible in English? I do not personally have a list.

It might be that Tyndale, instead of creating words, solidified the meanings.

Bill Heroman said...

I searched his book on Tyndale via GoogleBooks & Amazon. I noticed that book and should search it as well. Not tonight, though. Maybe someone reading this will help out...

You may have the right angle on how to characterize this, but your point is still largely semantic (pun intended) isn't it?

Rest assured, I'm not trying to slam on Tyndale. He's definitely a hero. But we all leave behind unintended consequences, don't we?

Anonymous said...

What exactly is your point or concern here? Translation is an art, not a science -- it doesn't involve transcription and one-for-one exchanges or matches.

Tyndale most definitely coined new words -- atonement, for one. That he created several others or refashioned meanings from existing ones shouldn't be surprising, given his status as perhaps the first significant translator of Hebrew into English.

Bill Heroman said...

Atonement. Thank you, Kyle.

My point is, I want to know what was the Hebrew THOUGHT behind the Hebrew word that Tyndale had to 'make up' a new word for. I just enjoy finding a primitive thought behind ancient words that is fairly close to its etymological source.

AND I sometimes feel like the NT lingo we use has taken on a conceptual life of its own. I want to get back to the root...

Bill Heroman said...

According to OED, Wycliffe used "onement" c.1388 and Tyndale was the first to combine "at onement" into one word. That still begs the question, but I suppose it's fairly difficult to go much farther back than Wycliffe.

Again, I want the primitive thought, but I shamelessly admit, as a NT guy, I'm *mostly* concerned about greek words.

J. L. Watts said...

Bill, which book are you looking at?

It might be semantics, indeed.

Tyndale is not just a hero, but The Hero of English Bible Translation, and indeed, Bible Translators.

Bill Heroman said...

OED = Oxford English Dictionary

I agree, Joel. I really don't get into "translation wars". I'm just trying to figure out what the deeper meanings are behind the typical renderings. Does that help?

J. L. Watts said...

Sure, I can understand that, Bill

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