Could you be a liturgical translator?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 09, 2004

Some time back, a friend held a translation contest. The object of the contest was to provide the best approximation of how liturgical translators (think ICEL) might have rendered the memorable words of the astronaut Neil Armstrong, when he became the first man to step on the moon.

Armstrong's actual words, you will recall, were:

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

You couldn't get that sort of "sexist" language past the feminist censors these days.

Contestants submitted the alternatives below. We encourage CWN readers to rate the entries-- or, if they prefer, submit their own.

First the straightforward efforts:

  • That's one small step for me, one giant leap for all of us.
  • One small step for one, one giant leap for all.
  • That's one small step for two legs, one huge leap for all the legs of planet Earth.
  • That's one small individual step, and one giant universal leap.
  • That's one small step for one, one giant leap for everyone.

Some contestants made a more ambitious effort to eliminate not only gender-specific language, but also the constraints of time and place.

  • When someone steps, everybody takes a giant leap.
  • Taking steps is something we all must do in our own time.
  • One relatively insignificant forward advance for a disassociated entity; one meaningful and therefore significant leap for the community.

Finally, there were the full-fledged efforts to render Armstrong the service that liturgical translators have performed for the prayers of the Mass:

  • As often as one of our own kind determines to step forward, even a little, it is credited to our race and we all progress a giant leap forward.
  • I did it for the self-improvement of humans everywhere.

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Show 12 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jun. 12, 2004 9:42 PM ET USA

    Thanks for your howler, Patriot! A masterful encapsulation of the blather dished up every Sunday. Fr. Z's remark about advertizing jingles places the OCP hymnal in its proper context..."taste and see...taste and see...". Are they singing about God, or margarine?

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2004 8:53 PM ET USA

    Fr. Z is right, but only partially so: to definitively master ICEL-ese, one must distort normal word order as well. "Here I am" must become "here am I." So I offer an emendation: Alone, for this one Godly person, a baby step; for all God's holy people, a confident stride.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2004 3:03 PM ET USA

    Fr. Z: You're right. I think the longer versions we have come up with are the ICEL versions supplemented with the required explanatory ad lib prayers from priests who can't get through a Mass without showing us how with it and caring they are. Or at least I think they're ad libs. Perhaps there is an official "Supplementary" authorized by the Spirit of Vatican II.

  • Posted by: Fr. Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬) - Jun. 10, 2004 10:58 AM ET USA

    No... no... no... This won't do at all! ICEL translations are *never* longer than the original Latin! The solemn elements must be expunged, and it must be cut up a bit, as in the model for ICEL prayers: "O God, you are so big. Help us to be big like you." I study this stuff! What we need here is something like: "It's a big step. This one's for you." This ICELese version will resonate with our popular culture and also reflect the TV commercial jingle liturgical music used.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 10, 2004 10:13 AM ET USA

    This challenge to one, an invitation to all.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 11:19 PM ET USA

    When I step on a small man, I leap over all mankind. Nietszche

  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 11:17 PM ET USA

    It is thanks to constant dialogue that I discerned my talent and time, and you contributed your treasure for a moment that will live forever in herstory as we gather together around the table to taste and see, SISTERS and brothers, that I was borne up on eagle's wings when morning has broken.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 10:07 PM ET USA

    "As a community, sisters and brothers, we have effected change and growth for all of us beyond our previous planetary stereotypes and prejudices. While I have facilitated your growth, we share this in common each having given from their ability and each having received according to their need."

  • Posted by: Japheth - Jun. 09, 2004 9:15 PM ET USA

    I take one small step, so that from east to west a perfect step might be made.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 6:31 PM ET USA

    Notice that Armstrong got his words wrong. What he was suppossed to say, and didn't was: That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Notice the "a" before man. He ommitted it, making it doubly un-pc.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 09, 2004 6:30 PM ET USA

    Try: Thanks to the expenditure of billions of dollars that might better have gone to help the economically disadvantaged, one person has taken one small step. The hegemonists who planned it believe that it will have major significance to the military-industrial complex.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 6:22 PM ET USA

    One small step for man, it won't be a giant step until a woman does it.