Happiness, joy, or a good liver?

by bzephyr

What’s the difference between joy and happiness? Well, it really depends on how you use the words. Some insist on a fundamental difference between these concepts rooted in the idea that we often base our happiness on happenings, while we can have a true inner joy despite what’s happening to us or around us: joy in the midst of suffering. I read Tim Hansel’s You Gotta Keep Dancin’ many years ago. Writing from the perspective of suffering with chronic pain after a climbing accident in the Sierras, he instructs us that we can choose to be joyful with God’s help no matter what our circumstances. It’s an awesome truth.

On the other hand, someone might use the word ‘happy’ in the same way if their happiness is not always based on their immediate circumstances. The way we actually use words is the biggest factor in determining their meaning.

In the Onnele languages, there are also different ways to express concepts such as joy and happiness, and different Onnele dialects may use one expression more commonly than another.

When we were checking over Luke 1:14 last week, we struggled with different ways to appropriately express joy and happiness in the various Onnele dialects. Speaking of the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, an angel tells Zechariah:

“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” (NASB)

In the Goiniri dialect, they have translated it like this:

“Sa yene ese aiyem wamo. Ka pinuma mingklari ese nulu mela namo, ka nu ese ainem empo mela namo yemeiye.” (Goiniri translation)

“Na yu bai amamas nogut tru. Na ol planti manmeri bai i lukim dispela pikinini, na ol bai i amamas long taim dispela pikinini i kamap.” (readable Tok Pisin parallel translation)

“And you will rejoice greatly. And many people will see this child, and they will rejoice when this child appears.” (literal English back translation)

In the Wolwale dialect, Joel (pictured above) determined that it needed to be expressed a bit differently for his people:

“Yene ese samo woluporo. Ka pinuma mingklari ese nuru mela namo ka nu ese wolpun uporo e taim wu yemei.” (Wolwale translation)

“Na yu bai amamas nogut tru. Na ol planti manmeri bai lukim dispela pikinini na ol bai i amamas long taim em ikamap.” (readable Tok Pisin back translation)

“And you will really liver-good. And many people will see this child and they will liver-stomach good at the time he appears.” (literal English back translation)

Zechariah was troubled and filled with fear when the angel appeared to him, but there was good reason to have joy (or a good liver) in the midst of his trouble. His child would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord himself.

For more about the dialect differences in this verse, see the post over at the AGAPHSEIS blog.

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