Friday, October 10, 2008

Erasmus and the infinite possiblitities of varied verbal expression

Erasmus is a guy most people have never heard about. He lived from 1466 to 1536. He was very influential by producing the first Greek New Testament. This would later help William Tyndale to create the first English translation of the New Testament as well as enabling Martin Luther to create the first German translation of the New Testament.

The following comes from a talk on William Tyndale given by John Piper a couple of years ago. His thoughts struck me because I'm beginning to really love language and appreciate the beauty of it. I want the ability to make thoughts and ideas come alive by using more creative vocabulary. And it's interesting because Erasmus and many of the early Bible translators were lovers of language as well. And, as you'll read, some think that without guys like Erasmus there would be no Shakespeare.
"Erasmus wrote a book called De copia that...helped students increase their abilities to exploit the 'copious' potential of language. This was hugely influential in the early 1500s in England and was used to train students in the infinite possibilities of varied verbal expression. The aim was to keep that language from sinking down to mere jargon and worn-out slang and uncreative, unimaginative, prosaic, colorless, boring speech.

One practice lesson for students from De copia was to give 'no fewer than one hundred fifty ways of saying ‘Your letter has delighted me very much.’' The point was to force students 'to use of all the verbal muscles in order to avoid any hint of flabbiness.' It is not surprising that this is the kind of educational world that gave rise to William Shakespeare (who was born in 1564). Shakespeare is renown for his unparalleled use of copiousness in language. One critic wrote, 'Without Erasmus, no Shakespeare.'"

1 comment:

  1. I suppose I owe a substantial debt to this Erasmus character then...and I like that excercise...might have to start doing that here