In Which I Beat Critics to the Punch, a Punch I Deserve
My new book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible has inside it what I now take to be an error. Probably. But one I already hedged.
In the book I give about three dozen examples of “false friends,” words which we still use but which meant something different in 1611—in such a way that modern readers usually won’t notice. This is the key concept of the entire book, and one of my examples, added at the last minute as my deadline neared, I now believe doesn’t belong in the list. If there’s a second edition, I plan to replace it (I’ve got more).
Ironically, it’s one of the examples a radio/podcast interviewer zeroed in on in one of my interviews about the book. The interviewer didn’t spot my error. It’s still possible I was right. It’s not perfectly clear. But on balance, I think I was wrong.
And I’d love for a critical reviewer to find the error. I am discovering that, for this book, the most difficult part of the entire project has been not writing, not editing, not re-editing, not re-re-re-re-editing, not persuading my wife that a given line actually was funny and merited inclusion, not getting a publisher to take me on, not analyzing the cover, not promoting the book, not any of those things. The most difficult part of the project has been finding a qualified person who disagrees with my thesis and who will do me the courtesy of listening hard and responding to that thesis. I’ve had basically two such responses. I’ve also had nice responses; I’ve also had a very few nasty ones; I’ve also had a number of responses that utterly refused to address what I actually said and instead insisted on talking about something else. But I’ve only had two people listen hard enough to understand the main thing I was saying and then answer it with anything more than the wave of a hand.
I feel like, I dunno, a swordsman who spent his formative years watching a battle go back and forth and training to step onto the front lines. I sharpened my blade religiously; I invented new thrusts and parries; I perfected a near painless method of killing my opponent in which he comes immediately back to life and realizes we’re actually on the same side (hey, this is my metaphor). And now hardly anyone will fight me.
There are lots and lots of KJV-Only folks out there, and I’m asking you: hit me! I will smile with joy and turn the other cheek for another blow and another! Look up all the words I laboriously looked up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Find the one I think I was wrong about. Offer an alternative. Try to undercut my project at its central point: “false friends.”
Now’s your opportunity.