Language: May 2011 Archives

Help Meet

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In the KJV and some translations that it's influenced, Genesis 2:18 describes Eve as "a help meet for" Adam. Somehow this has come into English as a noun "helpmeet", which (judging by how it was used in circles I grew up in) seems to mean "helpmate" or something like that. Since I hardly ever use the KJV, I don't look at this expression all that much, and it never occurred to me until recently that this understanding of "help meet" completely misunderstands the language of the KJV, which actually translated the Hebrew very well into the languge of the day but completely misleads the reader of today, as is so often the case with archaic translations.

What the KJV says is "I will make her a help meet for him." In archaic English, "meet" in such a context means "fitting" or "suitable". She is a helper who is meet for him. She is fitting for him, well-suited to him. That's exactly what the Hebrew says. To garble this as a noun "helpmeet" completely obscures the point (not to mention sounds meaningless to most speakers of English who weren't raised on the KJV).

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