Thursday, February 18, 2010

“Host” and “guest”

I kept on thinking on the question raised by Fr. Zuhsldorf about the right translation of the cumsubstantialem Patri of the Latin creed: whether it is better "one in being with the Father" or "consubstantial with the Father".

Now, from what I understand the question has been settled, by those who have authority to do it, in favor of the second option. If nothing else, this has the advantage of being closer to the Latin creed previously in liturgical use.

This granted, and convinced as I am that there is no substantial difference in the meaning of the two formulas, there remains, as a good topic for a blog salon, the question why Fr. Zuhsldorf should find the first one offensive.

A lady expert in translation (actually my wife) gave me the cue.

Schleirmacher, among other things translator of Plato into German at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, remarked that in translating one has to make a choice: between giving prevalence to the "host language", so to make the translation sound as smooth as possible, or to the "guest language", which can make the translation sound awkward.

In our case, consubstantial is certainly faithful to the Latin "guest", but not so familiar to the English "host". One in being might be more consonant to this last.

Even too consonant, if we share Fr. Zuhlsdorf's reaction, suspicious of English as metaphysical language: its lack of precision could lead to confusion, nay, confusion is already there!

In the way of conclusion, a maxim: he who wants to be confused, will certainly succeed in finding something to confuse him.


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