Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Critical Text Project or Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: An Interesting Comparison – Part VI

Continuing with more of our reader’s comments and our responses, and information about Royal Skousen’s Critical Test Project and Webster’s monumental dictionary. In the last post, we began a list of words Skousen believes should be changed in the scriptural record, and are continuing this list here:
2. Hurl. “Yea, how could you have given way to the enticing of him who is seeking to hurl away your souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo?” (Helaman 7:16).
    Skousen: “Hurl” means to throw or in this case, to drag…casting one down into hell…and could be either drag or pull.
    However, that is not correct since the world “hurl” in Joseph’s time as well as today means to “throw with violence or great force.” It does not, nor ever has, meant to drag or pull.
    In addition, the word “hurl” sounds much more Satanic to involve a process of throwing violently a soul down into hell with great force, hostility and aggression, as opposed to dragging or pulling someone there.
    Thus there is nothing wrong with the word “hurl” that Joseph used and the scribe wrote down, and certainly does not need to be changed.
    3. Besom. “I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts” (2 Nephi 24:23).
    Skousen says it should be the broom of destruction. In fact, he said of the word besomwe don’t even know what this is.” An interesting comment from a renowned linguist and a professor of linguistics at BYU in light of the following:
Top: Sample besoms found in various areas across the U.S. today; Middle: Besom "wedding jumping" in Scotland, making besoms in Hampshire and Berkshire, England in 1940s, and besom making for High Wycombe today in Buckinghamshire, England; Bottom: Selling besoms in Laos today; Sweeping with a besom in England 1910; a besom sold for three shillings and sixpence a dozen in Old West Surrey in 1904; Bamboo besoms from Shanghai and Taiwan
    However, the besom was so well known in Joseph Smith’s day, that it was not only the “sweeper” of the frontier, it figured in several stories, especially in Massachusetts and New England, where some meetings began with the process of sweeping out negative energies and bringing in the good energies to create sacred space—hence the saying “a clean sweep”; it was also used in Scottish weddings as the “Jumping the Besom Ceremony,” as well as in the U.S. for old wedding ceremonies performed by Gypsies and early American slaves (jumping the broom backward was for divorce). England, Switzerland and Romania, were popular for making besoms, and creating them was strictly a male occupation in Europe. There are even besom deities in China, but prohibits its use on New Years for fear it will sweep away good luck. An old English Rhyme went: 
        If you buy a besom in May
        You will sweep your friends away;
        If you sweep the house with besom in May
        You will sweep the head of the house away 
    In Africa, should a man be struck by a besom, he will grab hold of it and hit the broomstick seven times or he will become impotent. American country folk believed no good comes of carrying a besom across water or burning one, and leaning it against a bed would bring bad luck to the bed, as well as never bring old besoms into new houses, as it will have become attached to the old home and bring only bad luck, but good luck comes from sending a new besom and a loaf of bread into a new home before entering it. Recently, besoms appeared in the Harry Potter stories and movies. 
    In Hamburg, when German sailors had had enough of toiling against a contrary wind, they would throw an old besom or bream (a special besom used for burning off the filth, grass, ooze, shells or seaweed from a ship’s hull) before any vessel traveling in the opposite direction to reverse the wind. 
    In fact, in American lore, placing a besom under a bed or beneath the pillows at night protected the sleeper from nightmares, and placing a besom with the bristles on the pillow when you are away was to guard the bed against evil spirits, and two crossed besoms bung on a wall or the back of a door to protect the house from unwanted influences; and in Sicily, on Midsummer’s Eve, besoms are placed outside the home to ward off any wickedness that might come knocking.
    Most importantly, a besom in Joseph’s day was known as a brush with a long handle for sweeping floors; so called from being originally made of the broom-plant. In America today, brooms are made of the tops of broom-corn, or of some species of wood splintered, chiefly ash. But in Joseph’s time the word “broom” is defined as “besom,” from the broom plant, a plant of several species, called dyer’s weed, and used by dyers; Spanish Broom is a species of Spartium, and Butcher's Broom is the Ruscus plant. The original besom made of shrubs or twigs, is still used in stables. 
Left: The practice of heeling over a ship in deep waters by shifting ballast or cannon to one side was called “Parliamentary heeling,” and was necessary, especially out of a port, to “besom” or “bream” the hull, i.e, clean it from the junk that attaches to a hull during sailing in the days of wooden ships; Right Top: It was a much faster way of cleaning the hull than putting into dry dock and hoisting on pylons, etc., however, in 1782, the HMS Royal George was lost while undergoing this procedure; Right Bottom: The fish called “bream” 
    In Webster 1828 dictionary, under “broom” he names and describes the besom, then gives reference to “bream,” which is a fish or to burn off the grass, sea weed, etc., from a ship’s hull. Evidently, the actual word “broom”, meaning to sweep, was not in common use in Joseph Smith’s time and barely gets a mention in the 1828 American dictionary.
    Again, Skousen is wrong and evidently ill informed; the word “besom” is correct as Joseph used it in his time, and the scribe wrote it down correctly. While the word "broom" is more modern and would give an ease to reading, it would have been the incorrect word in Joseph Smith's time, and would bring discredit to the translation process that is so accurate the way it is and should remain.
    4. Rebellion. “And it came to pass that king Laman died, and his son began to reign in his stead. And he began to stir his people up in rebellion against my people; therefore they began to prepare for war, and to come up to battle against my people” (Mosiah 10:6) 
    Skousen makes fun of rebelling upward and cracks some jokes about how silly it is to say you rebel against the people below you—that you rebel against power and authority over you, when in fact rebellion means to rebel against a government, against lawful laws, etc.
    However, the word rebellion as used here is correct, because of the unique circumstances in which it is used. Webster defines the word as: “An open and avowed renunciation of the authority of the government to which one owes allegiance; open resistance to lawful authority,” and that is exactly what is taking place. We need to keep in mind that this event takes place directly after king Laman dies, who had been the lawful authority and granted to the Nephites living in the City of Nephi and city of Shilom, the lawful right to live there (Mosiah 9:6-7).
When Laman dies his son, though the new king, was stirring up his people to rebel against the law and the lawful right of the Nephites to dwell there. While he was the lawful authority as king, he was also going against the laws under which he reigned as king, i.e., he intended to set aside a lawful government agreement made by the previous king and kill the Nephites who were promised under the law of the king that they could dwell there peacefully.  
    In this case, though at first sounding wrong, is actually the correct word. The son and new king was inciting his people to rebel against the laws by which the Nephites had been granted peace and the right to occupy and live in the Land of Nephi. Again, Joseph Smith is not only correct, but the word he used makes it clear that the rebelling of the king and his subjects against the Nephites was against the established law and illegal, at least as viewed by the Nephites.
(See the next post, “The Critical Text Project or Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: An Interesting Comparison-PtVII,” for more of the reader’s comments and our responses, and information about Royal Skousen’s project and Webster’s monumental dictionary, and the continuation of the list of words Skousen wants to change)

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