Beliefnet
For a book written in a host of other languages, the Bible has provided the English language with an amazing number of everyday words, as successive translators improvised and invented equivalents for the original Latin, Greek and Hebrew. A new book by Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain traces the adoption (Romans 8:23) of 130 of these gifts from the Bible. What follows is a selection, reprinted with permission from W.W. Norton:

BUNDLE
   (noun) a collection of things fastened together


Not as familiar as "bundle of joy" or "bundle of nerves," "bundle of myrrh is the expression that started it all. Appearing in [John] Wycliffe's 1388 version of Song of Solomon, the noun occurs in one of several metaphors that describe the poet's love: "My darling is a bundle (bundel) of myrrh to me" (1:12). Bundle held the metaphor together until the Revised Standard Edition, when it was replaced by an unflattering "bag of myrrh." .

Female
(adjective) belonging to the sex that bears offspring


The English genesis for female was Genesis-Wycliffe's 1382 version of it. There, in what has become one of the most familiar passages in the English Bible, we're told that "God made of nought man to the image and his likeness; to the image of God he made him; male [maal] and female [femaal] he made them of nought" (Genesis 1:27). Although Jerome renders the adjective as "femina" (woman or the feminine gender), Wycliffe opts for its Latin relative, "femella" (girl or young woman). .

Holier Than Thou
   appearing more self-righteous than another


Some Bible readers have accused the prophet Isaiah of haughtiness for speaking these words that first appear in English in the 1560 Geneva Bible. Isaiah, however, is merely talking as if he were one of the self-righteous crowd before him, a group that he sarcastically quotes as saying, "Stand apart, come not near to me; for I am holier than [then] thou" (Isaiah 65:5). The prophet shows his true feelings about such hypocrites when he adds, "These are a smoke in my wrath, a fire that burneth all day." .

Land of Nod
distant biblical area, now a metaphor for sleep


After Cain is cursed for the murder of his brother, Abel, the narrator of the Bible's first book tells us, "And Cain went out from the face of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden" (Genesis 4:16). [William] Tyndale's 1530 translation of the Pentateuch is the first to introduce this phrase to written English.

Not only did the Genesis verse yield the title of John Steinbeck's 1954 novel "East of Eden," but it also led to a humorous term for the place we all go to when we fall asleep. Because the verb nod has meant to fall asleep, the land of Nod became a pun for a place that sleepers visit.

Left Wing
(noun) the left side of an armed force in battle array; the more liberal section of a political party


An unimposing hybrid of power and politics, warfare and ideology, left wing takes center stage for the first time in [Miles] Coverdale's 1535 account of the last book of the Apocrypha, Maccabees. As Judas Maccabeus, the heroic defender of Judaism and religion freedom, battles his way to victory against all odds, we're told that "when they which were of the left wing [lefte wynge] saw that the right side was discomfited they followed Judas behind" (1 Maccabees 9:16)

Puberty
(noun) the stage of human physical development when sexual reproduction becomes possible


"Pop music trends come and go," observed a recent music review in the Boston Globe, "but puberty never goes out of style." In terms of the English language, puberty, the noun, has been in style since it was introduced in 1382 by John Wycliffe.

A direct borrowing from the Latin Bible, puberty (pubertas) occurs in one of Malachi's admonitions to remain faithful to the Lord. And marital fidelity, "between you and the wife of your puberty [pubertee]" (Malachi 2:14), is one of the fundamental ways that godly devotion must be expressed. In this context, puberty refers to literally to the time when a male youth becomes of age and takes his first bride in the marriage bed. (The Latin root of the noun is puer, "boy.")

Shibboleth
(noun) any word, phrase, or pronunciation indicative of a person's origin; a password or otherwise distinction catchword adopted by a unique group of people


In the Old Testament, the Book of Judges contains the earliest of spy stories. As Wycliffe tells it, when the conquered Ephraimites try to pass themselves off as the conquering Gileadites, the pretenders are asked to pronounce the Gileadite word shibboleth ("an ear of corn"), but because of their language idiosyncracies, they can produce only the mispronunciation "sibboleth". (Judges 12:6). In this case, it was a dead giveaway and they were summarily executed.

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