An Interpretive Exercise

In the beginning of God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in Light of General Linguistics, Moisés Silva crafts a fictitious interpretive scenario in which Swahili speaking archeologists in the year 2790 discover a fragmentary text written in English (a language that has long been unspoken and has left behind little literature) and deliver it to philologists to study and interpret.  These scholars, based on their knowledge of the English language and their exegetical prowess, publish an exegetical commentary on this English fragment.  When you read the fragment that Silva provides and the commentary that follows you’ll see just how ridiculous it all sounds and notice just how poignant his point is (see pages 11-13 here).

But I want to propose an exercise based on an actual text message that I sent a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago.  In this scenario we’ll have the full text rather than a fragment and we’ll all be contemporary with the author and recipient of the message.  That should ensure a very high degree of interpretive accuracy, shouldn’t it?  I’ll post the message and then ask for your interpretations in the comments.  In another post I’ll reveal the actual meaning of the text and see how well everyone did.

Yo!  I think I found my wisdom.
I just saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa.
Word is bond if she asked me for my truck she could keep it!

Have at it.

Update: Since I posted the interpretation of this text I have closed the comments to this post.

9 thoughts on “An Interpretive Exercise

  1. Your “wife” that you saw was an attractive woman that you saw pumping gas who is not actually your wife, but that you would like to be.

    And the last clause is talking about a different woman from the “wife” that you saw. This woman is probably related to the recipient of the message.

    I am unsure what your “wisdom” refers to. Perhaps it is a very old wooden ship of the civil war era that you had lost but now have found.

  2. You drive a truck?

    I could only guess what your getting at but I think it illustrates how important context is and how difficult it is to decipher one half of a conversation especially when there is so much shared understanding that is not verbalized as well as inside jokes.

    Looking forward to see what the heck you were saying : )

  3. Rick: Nice. It seems we’re making much the same point.

    Diglot: I’ll let you know how you did a little later.

    Bryan: Exactly! You’re spot on concerning shared understanding and inside jokes.

  4. My turn:
    Yo! familiar way of salutation between teenager. The author is writing to someone familiar to him.
    The author seems to think that he find something he lost ie his wisdom (quality of being wise – Oxford dictionary)
    Interpretation of the first verse, the author tells his friend that he do or think something stupid and he get over it.
    WaWa is a gaz station in NJ where the author sees his wife pumping gaz. (The author being Nick, Nick is not married, Nick saw a beautiful girl pumping gaz).
    Word is bond, means that if the girl in question ask to pump the gaz for Nick’s truck, by fear of commitment Nick will ran away (wife) leaving his car behind

  5. Yo! = Greeting

    I think I found my wisdom. = Found what you think you’ve always wanted (in the look of a girl, see more below)

    I just saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa. = You just saw your “ideal” look in a girl that you would want in a wife pumping gas at the gas station.

    Word is bond = You’re telling the truth (Bible speak equivalent would be “Verily, Verily” or “Truly, truly”)

    if she asked me for my truck she could keep it! = [She was so beautiful that] you would do almost anything for her if she asked.

  6. JJMonde: Interesting interpretation. We’ll see how you did a little later.

    Darryl: Your interpretation is interesting as well. I can tell that culturally you might be a bit closer to the author and recipient than some of the other commentators. We’ll see how close you were in a bit.

  7. i’m so sorry i can’t play. all my interpretations would sound like song of solomon…the really good parts.

    i found my wisdom.

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