I wonder if you have ever contemplated where phrases such as: ‘In the beginning’, ‘Times and seasons’, ‘Pride goes before a full’ , ‘Brothers keeper’, ‘Fly in the ointment’ or ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ originate from? You may be surprised to find out that it is the Kings James Bible.
This year is the 400th anniversary of the Kings James Bible and it is likely that no other version of the bible, however popular or imposed by the Church, has had anything like the same impact on our culture and specifically our language.
David Crystal in his book ‘Begat: The Kings James Bible and the English Language’ asks how the Kings James Bible published in 1611 has contributed to the English language. He asks how a work published in 1611 could have had such an influence on the language and looks closely at what that influence has been. And if at the start of the book you don’t believe this you will by the end – he examines words and phrases which have found an independent life such as; ‘In the beginning’, ‘Let there be light’, ‘Fly in the ointment’, ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ and many more which started their life in the Kings James Bible but now find themselves as part of our language.
Hannibal Hamlin in The Times Higher Education (9th December) suggests that
’ His task may be an appropriate one for a linguist and perhaps the brevity of the chapters is suited to the popular audience the publisher appears to be targeting. Yet it seems a somewhat superficial exercise. …. Moreover, studying the King James Bible’s influence beyond vocabulary to matters of style, grammar and syntax would be more difficult, but would present a fuller picture.’
We should not forget the influence that the Christian faith and the bible have had on our culture – even our secular culture.
Begat: The King James Bible & the English language
By David Crystal
Published by Oxford University Press 2010
ISBN 978-0-19-958585-4 £14.99