Monday, November 12, 2007

"Jesus, Lead Thou On," LSB 718

This is a fine hymn. A good prayer, singable, and good words.

Mostly. I suspect I'm not the only one whose voice catches when using the word "fatherland," which has an oddly WWII German sound to it.

The English "fatherland" is translated directly from the German "Vaterland," and -- in German -- simply means "homeland."

Unfortunately, some of us singing it in English have a mental picture of the word alluding to Nazi propaganda, as here:

"Drawing from the Nazis' usage of the term "Vaterland", the direct English translation "fatherland" featured in news reports associated with Nazi Germany and in domestic anti-Nazi propaganda during World War II. As a result, the English word is now associated with the Nazi government of Germany (unlike in Germany itself, where the word means simply "homeland") The word is not used often in post-World War II English unless one wishes to invoke the Nazis, or one is translating literally from a foreign language where that language's equivalent of "fatherland" does not bear Nazi connotations."

A suggestion: congregations wishing to avoid unpleasant connotations might substitute (vs. 1) "to our father's land," and (vs. 4) "in our father's land." The meaning is not quite the same, but it's pretty close, and is a sweet and cherished thought rather than one that sticks in the craw. A quick perusal of other hymns so burdened indicates that a similar slight change could be made in them, too.

1 comment:

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Tell me if this occurs to you as it does me during these kind of situations:

Why is it, whenever someone taints a word, that we jettison that word rather than re-teach its original context? It seems like we are compounding the wrong when we choose to avoid such terms rather than draw the fire out of them through proper usage. Observe how people are treated when they use the word niggardly, and the term has nothing to do with race.