Saturday, October 28, 2006

Careless with Our Language

John Humphrys has written a book - Beyond Words: How Language Reveals the Way We Live Now - in which he argues that we should take our language far more seriously than we do presently and calls for a return to more formal language. He says, "If we are careless with our language then we are careless with our world." I couldn't agree more. I haven't read the book, but it sounds quite interesting.

We followers of Jesus Christ seem to get careless with our language, too. "Christianese" is just one example. We might ask someone we presume is not a believer if they are "washed in the blood of the Lamb?" We (as Christians) know what we mean by that, but non-Christians don't. Therefore, when we're speaking with those who don't know Christ, we need be careful with our language. But I think we need to be careful when we speak to each other, too. We say "God told me...," but I'm not certain that what we're saying and what we understand are necessarily the same thing. Is someone saying that God actually spoke to them in an audible voice, or are they saying that a thought, idea, or impulse popped into their head that they attribute to God? (or something else altogether?) I agree with Humphrys that we need to be more careful with our language.

One phrase I could live without ever hearing again is "I don't want to lie" (or its variation, "I'm not gonna' lie"). I'm glad you don't want to tell a lie, but the assumption all the rest of us have is that when you make a statement, you're telling the truth. Therefore, announcing to the world that you're not going to lie is completely unnecessary. Not only that, it makes me wonder - since you have to preface your statement - if you make a habit of not telling the truth? My guess is that someone who says that is simply lazy with their language and repeating a phrase that's become vogue.

Be careful out there!


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