Are you increasing or decreasing?

How are you doing these days? Are you increasing or decreasing?

Does it sound right to you to refer to someone increasing or decreasing? If not, how else might you express the intended meaning in English?

If you choose to accept this assignment, congratulations! You will be doing one of the most important parts of the Bible translation process, tuning in to the translation language to determine how it expresses what you want to accurately translate from another language.

And a number of you probably even can think of how the question in the subject of this post directly relates to translation of a verse in the Bible.

Have fun with your comments.

9 thoughts on “Are you increasing or decreasing?

  1. Tiffany says:

    Thinking about increasing and decreasing, someone’s weight or someone’s net worth comes to mind. But also John 3:30. The Message says, “This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” The majority of translations have “increase … decrease” while others have “less important … more important” or something similar (cf. CEV, NCV). The NLT has “greater and greater … and less and less.” I believe The Message is the closest to the meaning here. It’s not exactly a matter of importance; it depends on what someone is important to. John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus. It’s like a host of a who steps out of the way when the performer comes on.

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    Or am I being fruitful and multiplying? I did the latter mainly in mathematics class, and no I don’t mean behind the desks at the back as it was just what the teacher ordered. 😉

  3. Rich Rhodes says:

    This is one of those nifty (from the linguist’s point of view) instances where the underlying metaphors in two languages are the same, but you can’t simply translate directly. The metaphor is BIG IS IMPORTANT. In English we say He’s a big man around campus., big shot, big cheese, etc. But we can’t say grow or shrink (or increase/decrease) and have it trigger this metaphor.

  4. Peter Kirk says:

    Hypatia, in English brightness metaphors tend to refer to intelligence. Think about “He must become brighter, I must become dimmer”. I suppose “He must shine, I must be obscured” might just work.

  5. hypatia says:

    I admit that brightness/dimness metaphor can run into difficulties, but BDAG does cite αὐξάνω/αὔξω being found a number of times in conjunction with φῶς. Could we perhaps be looking at ellipsis here? Apparently the Greek and Latin fathers ‘understood 3:30 in the solar sense’ (ibid). What about ‘He must shine, I must fade’?

  6. Peter Kirk says:

    Yes, Hypatia, that might work. Then, is αὐξάνω/αὔξω used of the moon? I thought of “He must wax, I must wane”, but only for a very high level language translation – people in my church would wonder why Jesus had to wax his legs!

  7. hypatia says:

    Just checked in TLG – instances of αὐξάνω and σελήνη do occur e.g. Epictetus, Philo and later John Damascene, Michael Psellus, and Eusebius amongst others. No NT usage though.

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