The 70 Million Dollar Word

Good interpretation matters.

In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family attempted to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but Willie’s family didn’t speak English.  They spoke Spanish and told the hospital staff with great urgency that Willie was intoxicado.

The word is what professional translators like Nataly Kelly call a “false friend,” as the word doesn’t mean what you’d assume it means.

The doctors asked a hospital staff person to translate for the Ramirez family. The staff worker told the physicians that Willie was “intoxicated.” 

Assuming the problem was alcohol or drug related, the doctors treated him as if he were suffering from a drug overdose.

It is so dangerous to assume.

In Spanish, to be intoxicado is to be poisoned.  

Tragically, Willie was misdiagnosed and, because of the wrong course of treatment, became a quadriplegic. The hospital finally settled in court with the Ramirez family for $71 million.

Yep, good interpretation matters. 

It matters in the hospital and when reading and teaching the Bible.

If you’d like to learn more about biblical interpretation, you may access the one-page Rules of the Road guide to 12 essential principles of interpretation that will help you and others better understand how to understand and apply the Scriptures.

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