“Kill Your Darlings”

I’ve come across the phrase “kill your darlings” several times in articles about writing (most recently this one over at Scribblepreach)

How surprised I was when in my daily Bible reading last week I came across Hosea 9:16 in the NKJV:

“Ephraim is stricken,
Their root is dried up;
They shall bear no fruit.
Yes, were they to bear children,
I would kill the darlings of their womb.”

That’s not in any of the older English translations–KJV (“yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb”); ASV (“slay the beloved fruit”); RSV (“slay their beloved children”)–nor any of the modern translations either–NIV (“I will slay their cherished offspring”); ESV (“I will put their beloved children to death”); NASB (“I will slay the precious ones of their womb.”); H/CSB (“I will kill the precious offspring of their wombs.”)

From what I can tell, the NKJV is totally unique in this rendering.

The phrase is most popularly attributed to either Allen Ginsberg (cf the 2013 film “Kill Your Darlings” starring Daniel Radcliffe) or William Faulkner, both of whom lived prior to the publishing of the NKJV (1982). This article traces the history back even earlier to Arthur Quiller-Couch in 1914.

The phrase has a fascinating literary history, and whoever translated the NKJV may have intentionally alluded to this phrase.

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