That Translation …

Interesting intro to a religion column in the Marion Star:

In 1979, I sat in Dr. Richard Cutter’s early morning Greek class at Baylor University praying my professor would call on someone else to translate the homework passage from Plato.

My prayers were answered when he called on John.

John was more clueless than I was in this second-year Greek class, but he took a gallant stab at translating the passage.

After five agonizing minutes, Dr. Cutter thanked John and interrupted our naps with seemingly the most random of questions.

“How many of you think crap is a bad word?” he asked the class comprised of mostly Baptist ministerial students.

A few brave souls from the conservative South raised their hands, while the rest of us stared forward with wide-eyed incredulity.

“A freshman girl came to me after class last week,” he said, introducing his reason behind the question. “She told me that she was offended by my occasional use of the word crap because her East Texas upbringing taught her that it was an expletive.”

Cutter told us he’d apologized to the girl, but explained to her that his upbringing on a Kansas farm taught him to understand crap as a common word.

For him, the word was a homonym, a word having the same spelling and pronunciation, but with different meanings. Offering an example, he explained that a Baptist deacon in Kansas might use crap to describe the proposed church budget as well as the piles scattered in the pasture next door.

Hoping his heartfelt explanation had convinced us, he repeated his polling question. “How many of you still think that crap is a bad word?”

We cowered in silence. It was our second year with Dr. Cutter, and most of us recognized the sound of him loading both barrels.

“Good,” he said, taking our silence as approval.

“John,” he exclaimed pointing to the unfortunate translator, “that translation was a bunch of crap.”

I’m sure we’ve all been in John’s shoes at some point … some of us have also been in the (late) Dr Cutter’s.

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