Sightings of Tyndale


A fisherman is ‘one whose occupation is to catch fish’, the Oxford English Dictionary explains (no surprises there), but it adds that the earliest appearance of this word in the English language is in William Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament.

We have been so familiar with this simple word for so long that it never occurs to us that someone, somewhere, invented this word. Well, someone did, and that someone was William Tyndale. It seems simple enough to take two existing words (‘fisher’ and ‘man’) and glue them together - but no one had done it before. It is the same trick Shakespeare pulled off repeatedly. (By glueing ‘change’ and ‘sea’ together, for instance, Shakespeare gave us ‘sea-change’.)

Tyndale was a great coiner of new words and phrases. (Indeed, Tyndale and Shakespeare seem - between the two of them - to embody about half of all the verbal inventiveness ever known in English!) Tyndale uses only the plural form of this word, fishermen, and uses it only once: in Luke 5:2 when Jesus comes upon ‘the fishermen ... washing their nets’. (Or, as Tyndale himself spelled it: ‘the fishermen ... were wasshynge their nettes’. And you complain about modern English spelling!)

In the earlier Wycliffe translation the word ‘fishers’ had been used in this same place where Tyndale gave English a brand new word. A few verses further on, Jesus calls Simon to be his disciple explaining that ‘henceforth thou shalt catch men’. And that makes fisherman a reasonably exact synonym for the word ‘disciple’ (or, indeed, for the term ‘Christian’). So, how’s your fishing going these days?

The editor thanks John Cowing for sending this short piece by Kel Richards, an Australian Radio Broadcaster who loves words. It first appeared The Briefing issue 322 August 2004.

Humphrey Monmouth

A short article entitled Humphrey Who by Brian Watts which discusses the role of Humphrey Monmouth, the 16th century cloth merchant, in helping William Tyndale is to be found on a site belonging to the King’s Community Church.

Information from Neil L.Inglis

Stained Glass Window

The Church of St John the Evangelist, Elkstone, Glocs

The Church of St John the Evangelist, Elkstone, Gloucestershire has a stained glass west window dating from 1959 comprising 4 lights which illustrate: —

The Tyndale light depicts Tyndale teaching the ploughboy to read and a smaller inset beneath shows him at his desk translating the Bible.

Tea Towel

Tea Towel

Holland House, a Retreat, Conference and Laity Centre in Gloucestershire has produced a tea towel for sale based on a text from William Tyndale’s A Parable of the Wicked Mammon 1527 which reads: There is no work better than another to please God.

Information supplied by Victor Perry