11 February 2007

Before We Open for Regular Bidness. . .

by Phil Johnson

ere is an item or two for your amusement:

Star Wars in Chinglish

So there's this guy in Hong Kong who purchased a bootleg copy of Revenge of the Sith, dubbed in Cantonese and then subtitled in English with captions translated from the Chinese version back into English. Do that with the movie's title, and it becomes "The Backstroke of the West."

That's not all. Translate the phrase "Jedi council" into Chinese and back again, and apparently it comes out "Presbyterian Church."

Seriously. If you want to see some typical screen captures with subtitles included, click here. Unfortunately, the translation-and-back process makes Sith into an R-rated movie, so don't look too far beyond the links I have given, or you are likely to find language that will offend you.

I wouldn't mention Sith in Engrish at all, but a thought suddenly struck me: Once you posit a parallel between the Jedi Council and the Presbyterian Church, Star Wars® makes an interesting and excellent metaphor for the Federal Vision controversy. I won't work out all the details for you, but in my version Doug Wilson wears a black cape and makes mechanical breathing noises—and I wouldn't give up on the possibility that he could eventually be turned away from the dark side.

Speaking of funny Back-Translations...

Back when I was writing weekly posts about esoteric and offbeat things, I was planning to write a post about English as She Is Spoke, the famous 19th-century Portuguese-English phrasebook that was mostly plagiarized and quite literally translated from a French-English phrasebook by two authors who knew nothing whatsoever about English. Mark Twain called the book's unintentional absurdity "perfect."

Anyway, in preparation for that post, I collected a few graphics illustrating the difficulties of translating into a language whose idiom you are unfamiliar with. And while I'm no proponent of an unbridled application of the "dynamic equivalence" approach to Bible translation, these signs illustrate why wooden literalism is no better:

Want more? Here you go.

PS: (Added 13 Feb 2007) Here's a funny post that goes perfectly with this topic.

Phil's signature


Matthew said...

...well, if Jedis=Presbyterians then what are Baptists?

jen said...

Could someone please explain "Tissues of Kitten"?

It just really bothers me...

ann said...

I use www.engrish.com, when I want to relax my students of English. it is a cousin to Your examples, only from Japan.

FX Turk said...


Baptists have a moisture farm on Tatooine and don't want any part of the conflict. There's work to be done -- like ministry.


Soft like a kitten. Unless there's a contemporary use for kittens in the East which I am not aware of.


... I, um, ... that site? ... Ouch ...


First of all, thank heavens you're back. I thought the tubing incident was going to leave you like a cockroach on its back. For the record, that same week we had snow in my home town and I hurt myself sledding with my kids trying to teach my son the diving run approach to tubing.

That said, if we try to open up the Jedi analogy, this is what I hear you saying, and you can corect me if I'm wrong:

[1] If the PCA (and I don't know which version of PCA we're taking about here -- someone I am sure will fill me in) is the Jedi council, are you saying they were once a force for good, but now they are a somewhat lazy and politically-motivted body which knows here is something wrong but can't quite put their finger on it?

[2] And in that, are you saying that they are sort of going through the motions and doing too little too late because the Emperor has already recruited one apprentice and now has another who is more powerful?

[3] And in that, since you made the DW/DV comparison, are you saying that Doug Wilson is doing what he's doing out of a misguided sense of love combined with the feeling that he has never gotten the respect he deserves?

[4] And in THAT, who is Palpatine? Is it Peter Leithart? Doug Jones? It seems to make sense to me that it might be E.P. Sanders or N.T. Wright, but it's your analogy and I'd like you not to leave us hanging.

And since you brought it up, I'm of two minds on the whole FV vs. PCA thing. On the one hand, there's no question: the consequential views of FV are not the consequential views of historic presbyterianism. Things like paedocommunion and to what extent Rome is a valid expression of church make that obvious, and the way FV expresses itself leads a lot of people to wince when they read some of the writings that come out of that clan -- mostly because of (innocent, I think) equivocations between the eternal results of the New Covenant (like salvation) and temporal results of the New Covenant (like the church).

But on the other hand, the whole discussion leaves me wondering about who is trying harder to make sense out of their systematic beliefs -- and I'm going to say this in spite of the objections I know it will bring from our conventional presbyterian friends.

It seems to me, in spite of historical precedent, that the view that paedocommunion is a valid expression is more consistent with paedobaptist theology than the conventional baptism-[long pause]-communion-confirmation practice -- because baptism is "not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace". If you're in the church, you have a place at the Eucharistic table.

It also seems to me, when we talk about how to know who and what the church is, the FV view of baptism as an objective sign also makes more sense -- if you allow that "not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized." If you, like me, think that baptism is only for the believer, that's the really big hole in the bottom of the bucket for FV, but if you're a presbyterian you have to ask yourself: If "the visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children", and baptism is "the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church" (but not only that), and all child baptisms are valid if "the outward element to be used in the sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto," you either have to say that all Catholic priests are invalid ministers of baptism (which I think you can do if you get involved in the matter), or you have to take the inclusive view of baptism as a wide gate and call all Catholics "members of the church" in a way which means something more than a slogan. But they do have to slice the turkey here and not just say that it either smells good or smells bad.

To be clear on that, I think that this is what will make people examine presbyterianism in such a way that it will make excellent reformed baptists out of them. But I am sure there are no PCA guys who want that to happen. :-)

That said, there is plenty which needs to be scutinized in FV. I think the hypercovenantalism which leads to a lot of the talk which makes me (and many people) feel creepy about what these guys mean when they say "inside the new covanent" needs charitable but steely-eyed criticism. I think the question of whether all the guys who are standard-bearers for FV are using adequate precision in their language -- because they are talking to the church and not to surfers in a video -- needs to be an internal matter with them and is something which, externally, the "conventional" presbyterians ought to pressure more fully and robustly.

And I think that, ultimately, as an observation from the outside, a lot of the guys who are critizing FV are in the right stadium, but the stadium is Wimbleton where you use tennis rackets and not Yankee's Stadium where you use a bat -- a lot of the criticism of FV I have read has been swinging for the fence when the way to score points and win in this game is to hit the ball inside the court but in such a way that your opponent can't cover the ground. Maybe I'm not reading the right criticisms ...

Anyway, I say all that to say this: it is logically possible that FV has some valid criticisms for presbyterianism, and is working to reform presbyterian practice for the sake of the Gospel, but we'll never find that out until somebody engages them methodically, foundationally, and fairly. That will involve, I think, a defense of presbyterian confirmation and its relationship to baptism and communion, and a hard look at what the WCF is teaching about baptism and communion and why it teaches that.

Until then, I am a completely convinced reformed baptist, and I think the whole lot of them are taking comfort in a rite which doesn't offer comfort except to the willing. They're all nuts if you ask me. And they'd better have those units in the South Ridge repaired by midday, or there'll be hell to pay.

DJP said...

That's a longer comment than most of my posts.

And no pictures.

donsands said...

"For Restrooms
Go back toward your behind"

Should it have been: "For Restrooms, Behind your back go toward"

Now off to church to give sacrifices of praise and thanks to our Lord for His mercy and grace, and to hear His truth.

Phil Johnson said...


Nice comment. You give me enough fodder for a month of blogging. Perhaps I'll eventually develop some of these thoughts with a full post or a series of posts on the matters you have touched on in your comment.

But since I have only 6 minutes before I have to leave for church, here's a thumbnail answer:

1. Palpatine=Norman Shepherd

2. I agree that if you buy the classic covenantal argument for paedobaptism, it's hard to resist the logic of paedocommunion.

3. What troubles me most about the FV, however, is not its skewed sacramentalism, but the way some of its proponents are so blithely willing to erode the principle of sola fide. It has always seemed to me that there is a lot of tension between Doug Wilson's published views on justification and what some other FVers have written or said about the subject. I'd like to think Doug himself is troubled by that, and that if he turned his legendary critical gifts against the extremes and ambiguities of FV rhetoric rather than reserving all his negative commentary for FV critics, he might actually do the movement a whole lot of good.

jen said...

Soft like a kitten.

This I can handle.

Unless there's a contemporary use for kittens in the East which I am not aware of.

This is what I was afraid of.

FX Turk said...


Whoo-boy. Wow. Norm Shepherd. That one smarts -- but it makes a lot of sense.

I would agree with you that if DW is DV in our analogy, he'd be much better putting his lightsabre to use on his own ranks than on the perceived enemies of FV. The whole imprecise language thing needs to be very much polished up.

And I'm impressed (troubled? astounded?) that you check the blog 6 minutes before leave for church. If I tried that, Mrs. Cent would hang me from the yard-arm.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MTG said...

Phil did you ever see the email about the guy that was trying to order room service in an ASian Hotel? If I find it I will send it you for posting here.

I have a chinese rice cooker thatn I got in Taiwan that reads "Happy Home".

I had to laugh at the previous posters "which version of the PCA".

Best, Morgan

Tony Byrne said...

All of these Star Wars analogies don't make sense. Certain men are compared to Siths as if that is a "bad" thing. There is no "good" and "bad" in a Star Wars universe, is there? Since Obi-One said that "only a Sith speaks in absolutes", every Pyromaniac qualifies as a Sith.

You might criticize Obi-One and say that he himself spoke in an absolute when he said "only Siths speak in absolutes," but that's because he's a moron. All that matters is that being a Sith gives you a cool sounding voice and better looking clothes. After all, who wants to follow the teachings of a small, green frog looking dude anyway?! Yoda walks around with a cane, but doesn't seem to need it when he fights. He can spin around in mid-air with his lightsaber, but then walks away using a cane! Come on!

I'd rather be a Sith.

Stephen Newell said...


Contradict yourself, you do. Good and evil, the Jedi see. Heard, did you not, Obi-Wan say, "The Sith are evil"? Gone, you are, the commenter we have come to know, consumed by Darth Nitpick. ;-)

Anyway, I haven't laughed this hard over Star Wars in a while. Thanks a bunch. I'm linking to this one.

I just hope, Phil, no one takes you to task for the use of "Chinglish" in the title. When I saw that, I nearly fell out of my chair. "What!?!?!? Phil used a racial slur?!?!?" ;-)

Phil Johnson said...


But it's not a racial slur. Click on the word "Chinglish" in my header, and it'll take you to a Wikipedia page with a bevy of similar signs.

Likewise, "Singlish," the famous Singaporean dialect, has its own Wiki entry, as does Engrish, the more all-inclusive term, also linked above.


Don't be such a Gungan.

C.T. Lillies said...

Baptists have a moisture farm on Tatooine and don't want any part of the conflict. There's work to be done -- like ministry.

"Awww, Uncle Owen...I wanted to go to Tashi Station and preach the Gospellll."

THAT was a good one Frank.

You guys hit the ground running and its good to have you back on, er, the air?

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

Tim said...

As one with a Chinese wife and with many, many Chinese friends, I can confidently say that (based on my statistical sample, of course) anyone who is offended by the term "Chinglish" probably ain't Chinese.

Tim said...

Since Obi-One said that "only a Sith speaks in absolutes", every Pyromaniac qualifies as a Sith.

You need to understand that this was a throw-away line meant as a dig at the Bush administration. IMO.

Jim Crigler said...

Re: Doug Wilson, etc.

It was from Doug Wilson that I learned that "Presbyterians" is an anagram for "Britney Spears".

A tad more seriously, DW has repeatedly referred to himself (using a beer analogy perhaps appropriate to a former S.B., er, Southern Baptist) as the "amber ale" of the FV family, relative to the "lager" of others.

Re: Civil engagement

Dr. Mike has engaged DW on at least two occasions, once in either home court: At "St Anne's Pub" and on "The White Horse Inn". If only others would do the same ... Unfortunately, I'm not sure either interview is online any longer.

Matt Brown said...

I believe my dog would be interested in the "tissues of kittens."

FX Turk said...


You do a pretty mean Yoda for a guy with a hearing aid.

Tony Byrne said...

I couldn't help but hear Yoda's voice when I read what Stephen said. As a Sith, I was truly tormented.

lol@Darth Nitpick

Actually, I thought it was a dig against Christianity. Obi-Wan said that only a Sith speaks in absolutes after Anakin said, "if you are not with me, then you are against me." This verse immediately came to my mind:

NKJ Matthew 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

Tony Byrne said...

p.s. Chicks dig Siths

Andrew Jones said...

hilarious! i need to show my Chinese language loving daughter.

TulipGirl said...


And for those who are interested in the Slavic/English sorts of oddities in language, I recommend the book "Why Come to Slaka." Hilarious for anyone who has lived in Eastern Europe.