Tuesday, November 09, 2021

How do you say "thank you" in ancient Babylonian?

TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN: Trinity academic provides Babylonian translations for Marvel Studios’ ‘Eternals’.
Marvel Studios’ Eternals, released last Friday, is the first major film to feature some characters speaking in Babylonian, a language of ancient Iraq that died out over two thousand years ago. Translations into the long-dead language were provided by Assyriologist Dr Martin Worthington, from Trinity College Dublin, and author of the book ‘Teach Yourself Complete Babylonian’.


One of the most challenging aspects of Dr Worthington’s work on the film was coming up with translations for everyday phrases such as ‘let me help you’ or ‘wait a moment’. Because our understanding of Babylonian comes from written, and often quite formal, documents, mostly clay tablets, much is still unknown about ‘chatty’ uses of the language, he explains.

Generally, the more colloquial the English phrase, the harder it was to translate, according to Dr Worthington. A really tough nut was the expression ‘thank you’. “It is ubiquitous today, but as far as we know it was not used in Ancient Mesopotamia, so I had to find workarounds – expressions such as ‘May the gods bless you’ (il? likrub?ki to a woman, il? likrub?ka to a man).”

Cross-file under Cinema and Philology.

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