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Author Topic: English "good enough for Jesus Christ"
Jekke
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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In The Mother Tongue: English and how she is Spake, author Bill Bryson passes on a few urban legends as fact (ie the Inuit having fifty different words for snow.)

There's one story he tells that reeks of urban legend, but I've never seen it disproved (or confirmed.) It is the assertion that "a Southern senator in the United States" (alternately "an Arkansas congressman," Miriam A. Ferguson, Robert Byrd, or Stromm Thurmond) once told the head of the Joint National Committee on Languages:

"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me."

Can anyone help me put this one to bed?

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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Hint #1 of UL status: If a quote is attributed to multiple people, it is pretty likely that it isn't true. It is also attributed to Gov. Miriam Amanda Wallace “Ma” Ferguson (Texas)

Hint #2 of UL status: When a funny, stupid quote by a politician cannot be found in any mainstream news source of the day it is pretty likely that it isn't true. Recall how often the Sen Trent Lott quote regarding Strom Thrumond's Presidential race was reported.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Jekke:
In The Mother Tongue: English and how she is Spake,

The book's actual title is The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way.

quote:
the assertion that "a Southern senator in the United States" (alternately "an Arkansas congressman," Miriam A. Ferguson, Robert Byrd, or Stromm Thurmond) once told the head of the Joint National Committee on Languages:

"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me."

Can anyone help me put this one to bed?

I found one site repeating the quote and attributing it to The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said by Ross and Kathryn Petras. That version states it was originally said to Dr. Davis Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Language (if there is such a thing)

Another site (unfortunately difficult to read) which attributes it to H.L. Mencken quoting a Senator. Then there's the site which claims the recipient was Sen. Paul Simon.

In addition, it has also been attributed to Sonny Bono. This variety in both audience and speaker inclines me to believe that no one actually knows who said it first or to whom.

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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Felessan
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Perhaps it's a mangling of Give Me That Old Time Religion:

quote:

Gimme that old time religion,
Gimme that old time religion,
Gimme that old time religion,
It's good enough for me.

If it's good enough for Jesus,
If it's good enough for Jesus,
If it's good enough for Jesus,
It's good enough for me.

I remember being puzzled by it at school, watching Inherit The Wind in film class.

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You fool! That's not a warrior, that's a banana!
- a surreal moment in a role-playing game

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greenerben
I Saw Three Shipments


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This isn't meant as a slam toward any person of any particulary faith. To the contrary, I have a certain amount of respect for those who can hold consistent to the teachings of ones' faith. (Honestly.)

Is it possible that such a phrase was uttered by a Utah statesman (post-John Smith, of course)? Please do correct me if I am wrong, but did not John Smith believe that The Messiah (and in my understanding, this would read: Jesus) interact with what is now the United States in a common language with this New World?

This is a real question, and I hope someone can answer it as such... If this IS the case, is it possible that such a phrase was uttered by one who believes that Christ spoke English?

I have no evidence to support such a claim, which is why I propose this as a question, rather than a hypothesis...

Thanks.

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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At the time when the Mormons say Jesus was visiting the North American continent, nobody there spoke English.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by greenerben:
This isn't meant as a slam toward any person of any particulary faith. To the contrary, I have a certain amount of respect for those who can hold consistent to the teachings of ones' faith. (Honestly.)

Is it possible that such a phrase was uttered by a Utah statesman (post-John Smith, of course)? Please do correct me if I am wrong, but did not John Smith believe that The Messiah (and in my understanding, this would read: Jesus) interact with what is now the United States in a common language with this New World?

This is a real question, and I hope someone can answer it as such... If this IS the case, is it possible that such a phrase was uttered by one who believes that Christ spoke English?

I have no evidence to support such a claim, which is why I propose this as a question, rather than a hypothesis...

Thanks.

Joseph Smith translated brass plates from some ancient language into English; the results were the Book of Mormon, among others. The Book of Mormon tells the story of Christ in the Americas, but English was not the language spoken in the Americas at the time.

[Edited to exclude extraneousies]

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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bufungla
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by GenYus:
Hint #1 of UL status: If a quote is attributed to multiple people, it is pretty likely that it isn't true. It is also attributed to Gov. Miriam Amanda Wallace “Ma” Ferguson (Texas)

"Ma" Ferguson is the person most often given credit for this quote (and also among the earliest attributions of the quote).

buf 'the source of the "original" UL, at least' ungla

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"Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."

George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra

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Grand Illusion
Jingle Bell Hock


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I've never heard of a "good enough for Jesus" quote, but I've heard a variant: "If it was good enough for [the Apostle] Paul, it's good enough for me" spoken in pure jest by a preacher when referring to the use of the Authorized King James Bible.

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There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who do not.

"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" - The Brain

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Ron Miel
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Professor Henry Higgins said that English is the language of Shakespeare, Milton and the Bible.
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skeptic
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by GenYus:
At the time when the Mormons say Jesus was visiting the North American continent, nobody there spoke English.

At the time of Jesus Christ, even the English did not speak English. Wikipedia states...
quote:
Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. It is a West Germanic language and therefore is similar to Old Frisian and Old Saxon. It is also related to Old Norse and, by extension, to modern Icelandic
Following that was Middle English, from the Norman times 1100's til the 1600's roughly. It is only in the last few hundred years that English resembled what we speak today. There were at least two English kings who could not speak English.

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I like free speech. It lets me know who the idiots are.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
It is only in the last few hundred years that English resembled what we speak today.

I disagree. Middle English bears an very close resemblence to modern English and except for vocabulary differences, can be easily read by just about any literate English speaker.
quote:
There were at least two English kings who could not speak English.
The English kings who could not speak English did not have English as a mother tongue. One was William the Conqueror (who, naturally enough, spoke Norman French)(a number of his descendents also only spoke Norman French); another was George I (who, again naturally, spoke German). Neither were English.

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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Unusual Elfin Lights
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Miel:
Professor Henry Higgins said that English is the language of Shakespeare, Milton and the Bible.

[Slight hijack]

From the Bible Baptist Church:
quote:
We believe:

The King James Bible is the Word of God, and it is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

According to the church in Brandon, Manitoba, all other versions are "perversions" and the original texts were merely stepping stones to get the perfect rendition in the King James Bible.

[/hijack]

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skeptic
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
It is only in the last few hundred years that English resembled what we speak today.

I disagree. Middle English bears an very close resemblence to modern English and except for vocabulary differences, can be easily read by just about any literate English speaker.
quote:
There were at least two English kings who could not speak English.
The English kings who could not speak English did not have English as a mother tongue. One was William the Conqueror (who, naturally enough, spoke Norman French)(a number of his descendents also only spoke Norman French); another was George I (who, again naturally, spoke German). Neither were English.

Seaboe

Yes, but they were Kings of England.

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I like free speech. It lets me know who the idiots are.

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lazerus the duck
The First USA Noel


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I thought everyone knew God is an Englishman.

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All the world's a face, And all the men and women merely acne.

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
Yes, but they were Kings of England.

So what? That statement is irrelevant to this one:
quote:
It is only in the last few hundred years that English resembled what we speak today.

The first is true, the second is false.

Victoria was Empress of India but she didn't speak Hindi. So what?

Four Kitties

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If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
Yes, but they were Kings of England.

So? If your argument is that one should learn to speak the language of the country wherein one lives, that is one thing--and a totally different thing from saying English today is not the same language as English of 700 years ago.

Seaboe

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Education is not the filling of a hard drive, but the lighting of a bulb. -- Yeats via Esprise Me

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KingDavid8
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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I'm pretty sure the line was used by Archie Bunker on "All In The Family".

David

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www.MySpace.com/KDavid8

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
I've never heard of a "good enough for Jesus" quote, but I've heard a variant: "If it was good enough for [the Apostle] Paul, it's good enough for me" spoken in pure jest by a preacher when referring to the use of the Authorized King James Bible.
This is a really good point. Ben Zimmer's column on this topic at the Language Log in fact demonstrates that your variant precedes "If English was good enough for Jesus . . . " and that it likely served as the model on which the latter was based.

Incidentally, Brian Chapman has found what's certainly a very early telling (the earliest found so far, I think) of "If English was good enough for Jesus . . . " in the 4 December 1926 issue of The New Yorker (Talk of the Town, Pg. 27),

quote:
Old English

A gentleman connected with the Rockefeller Institute discloses that, among hundreds of letters of denunciation received by the institution during the past year was one from a man in Arkansas who took the view that all this modern education is dangerous and that the new-fangled practice of grounding preachers in Latin and Greek is especially pernicious. They ought to be taught in English, and only English, he said, adding in conclusion, "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."

(As Zimmer points out, Ferguson took office in 1925. He has yet to find any Texas newspaper recounting while she was in office that she'd ever said such a thing.)

Bonnie "this is the sort of language up with which Jesus would have put" Taylor

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by UEL:
quote:
Originally posted by Ron Miel:
Professor Henry Higgins said that English is the language of Shakespeare, Milton and the Bible.

[Slight hijack]

From the Bible Baptist Church:
quote:
We believe:

The King James Bible is the Word of God, and it is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

According to the church in Brandon, Manitoba, all other versions are "perversions" and the original texts were merely stepping stones to get the perfect rendition in the King James Bible.

[/hijack]

[continued hijack]
Prof. Higgins would have been referring to the King James version of the Bible.

" John Hayes Gardiner of Harvard University once stated that "in all study of English literature, if there be any one axiom which may be accepted without question, it is that the ultimate standard of English prose style is set by the King James version of the Bible". Compton's Encyclopedia once said that the King James Version "…has been a model of writing for generations of English-speaking people"
Wikipedia KJB
[/hijack]

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
quote:
Originally posted by skeptic:
It is only in the last few hundred years that English resembled what we speak today.

I disagree. Middle English bears an very close resemblence to modern English and except for vocabulary differences, can be easily read by just about any literate English speaker.
Early Middle English was more like Old English. Here's a sample from the middle of the 12th century (Peterborough Chronicle):

quote:
Millesimo. C.XXXV. On þis gære for se king Henri ouer sæ æt te Lammasse. and ðat oþer dei þa he lai an slep in scip. þa þestrede þe dæi ouer al landes. and uuard þe sunne suilc als it uuare thre niht ald mone. an sterres abuten him middæi. Wurþen men suiðe ofuundred and ofdred. and sæden ðat micel þing sculde cumen herefter. sua dide. for þat ilc gær warth þe king ded. ðat oþer dæi efter Sanct Andreas massedæi on Normandi. Þa þestreden sona þas landes. for æuric man sone ræueded oþer þe mihte. Þa namen his sune and his frend. and brohten his lic to Engleland. and bebiriend in Redinge.
After this, following praise for King Henry I, Stephen de Blois comes to England and is king during the Anarchy.

But later Middle English is more like Modern English (a translation of Ralph Higden's Polychronicon, mid-15th century) and is much easier to read:

quote:
Hit may be schewede clerely to the wytte that there were so mony diuersities of langages in that londe as were diuersities of nacions. But Scottes and men of Wales kepe theire propre langage, as men inpermixte with other naciones; but perauenture Scottes haue taken somme parte in theire communicacion of the langage of the Pictes, with whom thei dwellede somme tymme, and were confederate with theyeme.
Between 1300 and 1400, English becomes easy to read for moderns.

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Turing test failures: 6

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Mycroft
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by Four Kitties:


Victoria was Empress of India but she didn't speak Hindi. So what?

Four Kitties

She did to a certain extent. In her latter years she had in Indian advisor and often asked his advice and how certain things were pronounced (I believe the advisor claimed to be a prince, but this was later proved false). At Osbourne House, where she died, there is a magnificent collection of Indian gifts for the golden and diamond jubilees, and there is also a corridor lined with miniature paintings showing the various indian peoples which she often referred to.
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