Should auld aquaintance..

By | 4th January 2011

Writing this with the warm glow of the safely retained Ashes firmly in mind, my thoughts turn to the King James Bible whose 400th anniversary falls in 2011.

Sometimes known as the Authorised Version, the King James Bible is an English translation of the Bible started at the instigation of King James VI of Scotland and 1st of England in 1604 and completed in 1611. It was not the first translation from the Latin (Wycliffe and Tyndale preceded this version) but it is the version which has come down to us today and which provides many of the great verses and phrases which are familiar to all whether religious or not.

In other words it has survived the test of time. I suspect that this is largely because James wanted the text to resemble language which was in common use and which was familiar to the population at large. IP lawyers will be interested to know that unlike most other works which have long since passed from copyright into the public domain, copyright in the Authorised Version remains vested in the Crown in perpetuity and the right to production of the text has to be granted under letters patent to this day.

I rather hope that the King James Bible will enjoy a splendid revival during its 400th anniversary year. In recent times, there have been many worthy attempts to “modernise” the language, all of them dull and unworthy of the scholarship which resulted in the soaring and evocative phraseology of the 1611 version. In the same way, I rather hope that the electronic disclosure and document management market can build on its undoubted success in 2010 by becoming more accessible to a wider audience, not just of lawyers but also their clients whose knowledge of what is possible in this area is increasing exponentially driven largely by considerations of cost but also by the fact that the technology and the means to describe it are both becoming more accessible.

We recently submitted a proposal to a firm of lawyers which was described by the lead lawyer as the most lucid and candid proposal he had ever seen. I was sufficiently intrigued by those two adjectives to ask him exactly what he meant. The reply was instructive. He said he had understood what we said. That is also what I mean when I say that there is every chance of the e-discovery market having a good year. If the clients can understand it and providers can render the language of their industry intelligible, what is not to like, as they say?

At this time of year our thoughts have all been about endings and new beginnings. Sorry for the non cricket lovers (and any Australians) but the ending of an era of poor English performances down under is a development devoutly to be wished and is to be celebrated.

I have to admit I find the whole business of New Year profoundly unsatisfactory. I do not mean that I am all Bah! Humbug! But what is so exciting about the change from December 31st to January 1st? I cannot believe it is because the number of the year has changed. We change numbers and names of months 12 times a year and the days of the week considerably more, and after all the change to 2011 from 2010 was only a change from Friday to Saturday!

Kiribati is a tiny island nation in the Pacific and is the first country in the world to see the arrival of the New Year. I have no idea whether they celebrate this event or even how they do so, but other nations have their own traditions.

In Spain, the bells of the Casa de Correos building at Puerta del Sol ring in the New Year and the assembled crowd eat one grape for each chime up to midnight. In Ecuador, they burn effigies of people and events from the Old Year which are often stuffed with firecrackers. The wearing of yellow underwear is said to promote positive energies for the New Year. In New York there is the “ball dropping” from the top of One Times Square. In Venezuela, you should wear red underwear in order to find love!

All this seems more exciting than singing Auld Lang Syne which is about all we get up to in this country when we are not too drunk to remember! I have never liked this Scots folk melody whose words were written by that impenetrable Scots poet Robert Burns in 1788, but there are numerous other countries where the melody, if not the words, are in regular use today.

In Zimbabwe, it is a Shona funeral farewell song and in Taiwan too the tune is associated with funerals played by brass bands. In Japan, a students’ song “Glow of the Firefly” uses the tune and school leavers sing the tune in Hungary. In the Netherlands it is a football song called “We love Orange.”

So, whether you regard this time as a time to begin or a time to end, it would be churlish not to wish you all, and the King James Bible, A Very Happy New Year!