7 DECEMBER 1996, Page 17

Mind your language

THE TIME of year is fast approaching when my husband suddenly has to put in an appearance at emergency surg- eries, leaving me to do the last-minute and most crowd-plagued shopping. (Why do they make stores so hot when we go into them wearing outdoor clothes?) It is also the time when people who don't usually go to church do, and are surprised, if they are lucky, by the strangeness of the language of the Authorised Version of the Bible. So I thought I'd treat you to some seasonal jollity from King James's committee of translators.

Old-fashioned vests are back in at Marks & Spencer. The AV would call them habetgeons. When Exodus (xxviii 32) discusses how to make the robe of the ephod it specifies: 'And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent.' Very sensible, or it would unravel.

And over here on the haberdashery counter, what do we find but mufflers? Not for long if Isaiah has his way (iii 19); 'The Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear- rings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisp- ing pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods and the veils.'

Tires means head-dresses, I think; cauls means hairnets.

That lot would make you a gazing- stock, as Nahum warned Nineveh (iii 6): 'And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee.'

No, at this time of year I prefer to stay in my parlour (I Samuel, ix 22), avoid the jangling (I Timothy, i 6) of the chapmen (II Chronicles, ix 14); and leave the chambering (Romans Xiii 13) and surfeiting (Luke md 34) to others.

Dot Wordsworth