Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are you quoting the King James Bible in your speeches?

There's every chance that, when you give a speech or presentation, you're quoting from a 400-year-old reference book that you probably didn't even pick up or look at. That's how ingrained the language from the King James bible is in English-speaking cultures. This line-by-line reworking by nearly 50 scholars in the 1600s isn't in everyday, but elegant, phrasings that are loaded with metaphors that still resonate today.

From NPR's coverage of the King James Version (KJV) anniversary, experts point out that you're not necessarily making a religious reference when you quote from this historic work:
The King James is woven into our lives. It was read in churches and family devotionals for centuries, and today its language laces hundreds of everyday phrases. Consider: "How the mighty are fallen" (Samuel 1:19), and "Can a leopard change its spot?" (Jeremiah 13:23), and "The writing is on the wall" (Daniel 5: 5/6), and "The blind leading the blind" (Matthew 15:14). "These phrases have become part and parcel then of the general usage in the English language," says [Baylor University's David Lyle] Jeffrey. "We do not recognize them any longer perhaps as biblical unless we have a pretty good memory for the language of the KJV."
The NPR story includes a list of dozens of phrases that are likely to have first appeared in English in the KJV, from "in the twinkling of an eye" to "skin of your teeth."   It also looks at some famous speeches, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and President Bill Clinton's remarks after the Oklahoma City bombing, which drew inspiring language from this elegant work. If you're not familiar with it, take the time to explore its phrasings.

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