Sunday thoughts on the King James version from the Guardian


Jeanette Winterson leads off:

The King James translation was written to be read out loud – and that simple overlooked fact changes every argument about “difficulty” and “comprehension”. Even now, the phrasing of the King James has a naturalness to it. Awkwardness disappears within a few chapters of vocal reading – providing that you will trust yourself and trust the text. I say that because children are not brought up to read out loud any more, at home or at school. This is a new problem in the history of language development. Until mass literacy, reading aloud was essential and a pleasure.

As every poet knows, words begin in the mouth before they hit the page, and it is our experience of learning language. The King James karaoke nights, common to households where long familiarity with the stories meant that everyone joined in the refrains, built a confidence with language that the educated classes prefer to imagine as their own. My dad left school at 12, and never learned to read properly. He had no trouble with his Bible, and when he didn’t understand a word or a construction, he asked Mrs Winterson or the minister. He was a man of few words himself, but he had dignity of speech, learned directly from the King James.

Scrapping the King James version, in the well-meaning way of the well-educated classes, had a number of effects, the most decisive and the most disastrous of which was to destroy for ever an ordinary, everyday connection with 400 years of the English language.

The whole thing is here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/18/king-james-bible-language

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