Dear Pastor Tim,

I read the letter you mentioned (  Interesting.  I like your well stated reply.

With the Popeye "I yam what I yam," quote, I was expecting a "vegetable rights activist" writing in claiming the quote is somehow defaming relatives of the sweet potato.  (No relation to another Popeye comics character, Sweet Pea.)  After all, several US state do have laws against "produce disparagement".  They are states where you "don't 'disparagus' the asparagus".

The letter and reply made me think for a moment how could a person see the "I Yam" quote as blasphemous and the matter of of idioms across translations.  In English "I am..." doesn't in itself carry the significance it does in Hebrew where the normative statement of being doesn't use an explicit verb.  For a human being to say, "I am a teacher," the expression "Ani moreh," is hyperliterally "I teacher".  For the present tense, and maybe for a tense present, Hebrew usage doesn't voice "to be" in the present.

This lack of the voiced verb "to be" has led to an obscure ancient Talmudic discussion, which I just made up, of whether or not Tarzan was Jewish.  Some views held that he was half-Jewish because he said "Me Tarzan" rather than "I Tarzan" but others say that it just a case of lack of Hebrew schooling.  Other scholars focused more upon Tarzan' just being confused, citing a possible confusion of animal names when he called his chimp companion "Cheetah." This was supported by an incident where Tarzen yelled towards Jane as a cheetah was about to pounce on her, "Chimp!!"

Anyway back to the I yam matter, the Hebrew expression often translated "I am ..." doesn't quite read that way in Hebrew.  It is more along the lines of "I will be ..." but that matter more for a discussion of Hebrew <-> English translations.

What's the old translation adage?  "A text without a context is a pretext."

Thank you for the clean humour emails.