Smugglers, roses & Bible translation. With funniest pirate sketch ever!

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In UK, we have a builders merchants called Travis Perkins. They are a great place to buy timber and other materials, and doubtless a business of the utmost probity, named after two companies that merged.

But it is interesting to consider the hidden color, the resonance, in this name. No word exists in a vacuum. Words only have life because they create an image in our minds. And this image, different for each of us, will be an amalgam of our previous personal experience plus an overlay from our history and culture.

‘Travis Perkins’, a British broadcaster has pointed out, sounds like a rakish West Country sailor in 18th century Britain. (Phonetically he’d be ‘TRARviz PURRRkinz’!) Ostensibly a fisherman, but not averse to fixing a deal in Old Jake’s harborside bar to bring over a cargo of French brandy, dodge the Revenue cutters (patrol boats) and land the smuggled goods in a remote cave!

Not, perhaps, quite a pirate, but hey, this is an unmissable chance to bring you a classic radio comedy sketch about pirates! Scroll down to play.

Alternative words

Although Shakespeare wrote: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, the experimental truth is that it would not – if the other name had not yet built up the memories and associations of ‘rose’.

Many Christian terms may indeed smell sweet to you, but to others, they may reek of negative things due to people’s past experience. Yet rephrase them in neutral or contextualized language, and we can immediately transform them into a positive sweetness for others too. In evangelism, we need to be acutely aware of how our words and tone are perceived by others, and wherever possible avoid christianese and jargon, and choose neutral meaningful alternatives.

Who’d be a Bible translator?

Translating Hebrew and Koine Greek into other languages, even English, and especially non-European languages, is a hugely challenging task. Many words have no direct equivalent in the target language, or alternatively have multiple nuances which one word cannot capture. (That’s why the Amplified Bible brackets or square-brackets additional meanings or definitions.)

Every year it seems, somewhere in the world Christians have a public and sometimes vitriolic dispute about Bible translation issues. And often translators 50 or 100 years ago, with the best motives, made translation decisions which communicated poorly or were even glaringly inaccurate or misleading. Yet national Christians sometimes resist much more accurate modern translations as somehow tampering with God’s Word.

Christians who have not learned a second language can fail to understand that word-for-word translation between any two languages, even closely-related ones, is often misleading and sometimes impossible, and that languages are constantly evolving.

Here’s an abridged article from the International Journal of Frontier Missions which explains some of these complexities. See also Can You Get Here From There? and Persistent Problems Confronting Bible Translators.

For in-depth books on translation issues, see The Challenge of Bible Translation and Bible Translation. It is a hugely complex and sensitive task.

In fact, the Bible is surprisingly resistant to sub-optimal translation. (And of course, all translations are inevitably sub-optimal.) Around 80% is broadly narrative story, wisdom or poetry, in which truth is embedded rather than presented as systematic apologetics/life instruction. It’s more like a hologram than a normal photo. Chop off half a photograph and you’ve probably lost essential information which cannot be inferred from the surviving half. Cut a hologram transparency in half, and the image remains intact, though at lower definition.

The pirate’s training day

This side-splittingly funny radio sketch is great to play when you have a team away-day or similar! The text has been posted online.

Photo: Smugglers Inn, Holcombe, Devon. Used under Creative Commons from

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