I proposed an interpretive exercise earlier today in which I posted the full content of a text message I sent a friend not so long ago. I asked people to weigh in and offer their interpretation of the text. A few have done so and some were closer than others. First the text:
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!
Now the interpretations:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- “Yo!” is an exclamation introducing what follows.
- “Wisdom” = Wife according to Five Percenters (Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding = Father/Husband, Mother/Wife, Child).
- “Wife” = An attractive woman suitable for marriage based on physical features alone.
- “Word is bond” = Seriously.
- “If she asked me for my truck I swear she could keep it” = a reference to the Erick Sermon song “Female Species” meaning that the woman is very attractive.
- “Wisdom, “wife,” and the two uses of “she” all refer to the same woman.
Translation: “Listen up! I just saw a beautiful woman who works at Wawa pumping gas.”
Two of the interpreters took “Yo!” as a greeting although it was meant as an exclamation, i.e., a sudden outcry calling attention to what I was about to say. All three interpreters knew that I wasn’t married so they knew not to interpret “wife” literally. They all rightly discerned that “wife” carried connotations of physical beauty. They all rightly interpreted that this woman was actually pumping gas and this was not a metaphor of some sort. None of the interpreters caught the parallelism between “wisdom” and “wife” due most likely to their unfamiliarity with Fiver Percenter jargon. One interpreter rightly discerned the meaning of the final clause without catching the reference to the Erick Sermon song. One interpreter, plus Bryan whose comment I didn’t reproduce, thought that I actually drive a truck. In point of fact I drive a car but had the reference to the song been caught then they would have been led to interpret that differently.
Interestingly enough, every interpret read more into the text then was actually intended. This is to be expected though since they’re not familiar with the inside jokes between me and my friend and the way that we appropriate rap references to say (a) things other than what the song originally intended, and (b) things that could be stated in much plainer terms. Aside from these factors, my friend and I also knew quite a few Five Percenters when we were growing up (I even toyed with becoming one in my mid-teens), so we’re privy to things such as the “Supreme Mathematics” and “Supreme Alphabet” where numbers and letters stand for words and concepts. Lastly, it appears that all of the interpreters took the woman to be pumping her own gas. This leads me to believe that none of them are native New Jersians. My friend is a native New Jersian and immediately recognized that the woman worked at Wawa as a gas attendant since in New Jersey we don’t pump our own gas.
So what was the point of this interpretive exercise? Humility if nothing else. The Bible is way more foreign to modern Western interpreters than my text message is, so how much more careful should we be when approaching the Biblical text?