Friday, September 02, 2011


Words Mean Things

Michael P. Orsi:
How we express ourselves to others reveals our perception of reality. Appreciation of status, for example, is suggested in forms of address and by the words and phrases we use. There is a current trend in our speech, however, that lends itself to minimizing human relationships.
Tend to agree, so let's look at the examples he lays out.
...the traditional sign-off “good-bye” at the close of a phone conversation or when parting has now been replaced with “I love you.” Once this most intimate of phrases was reserved for special people on special occasions, usually at the most tender, if not vulnerable moments, in their life. It is now so frequently and loosely bandied about that its power has been greatly diminished.
Interesting choice. Does it really express love, or just cheapen the expression? Have to go with the latter.
...example of the diminution of language has come by way of the animal rights lobby. In the past when someone wanted a pet they would say, “I am going to get a dog or a cat.” Today, the popular phrase is “I am going to adopt a dog or cat.” This is a mighty leap from the owner-animal understanding of the past.
This one is easy. Lastly:
In recent years the term for one’s parents has become my “mom and my dad.” In former times this would have been considered baby talk. Traditional maturity always demanded that when referencing parents the proper designation after childhood was my “mother and father.” This connoted a growing degree of independence. Only in private discourse was “mom and dad” retained as the familiar address usually replacing mommy and daddy.
That one is deep and one I had not really thought of.

Let me add one more to this pile - "grace." This term, so bandied about in faith circles has come to mean "license to sin" rather than and expression of the depth of our sinfulness and the amazing love of God. It's overuse has lead to precisely the cheap grace that Bonhoeffer warned us about.

This is in part why I worry about efforts to express the gospel in a single sentence, and other such efforts at simplification. Made by people who know what the word mean with precision, they break in the the consciousness of a public with only a vague understanding.

It is important that we endeavor to teach the entirety of God's message to us.

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