Of Kings, Cloaks and Sex

Euphemisms for Sexual Relations in the Bible

or Wink Wink Nod Nod (an English euphemism for secret information everybody already knows)

allan-ramsay-king-george-iii-in-coronation-robes-1761-62The Hebrew Bible is full of wordplay i.e. Paronomasia. There are lots of parallelisms, similes, puns, idioms, and euphemisms, etc. many of which are impossible to translate.

When the paronomasia is a euphemisms, some translators will choose to woodenly translate it word for word, others substitute an English euphemism, and some of the more modern translations opt for stating directly what was meant. All three of these solutions leave the English reader missing some of what is being communicated, and often cloud the issues rather than bring clarity. Finding the right word can be quite difficult, what one culture’s euphemism might be, may use that same words for something completely different, e.g. Where in Hebrew uncovered or nakedness can mean a sexual encounter, to the ancient Greeks it meant drunkenness. When in English we speak of someone’s nose being red, we mean drunkenness, however ancient Hebrew it means angry. In English the heart is the seat of emotions, where in ancient Hebrew it was the bowels. So translators must decide how best to express these ideas. It all come down to, is the idea or the word more important? Continue reading