Friday, February 25, 2011

Everyday Language and Salads

"If your every-day language is not fit for a letter or for print, it is not fit for talk. And if, by any series of joking and fun, at school or at home, you have got into the habit of using slang in talk, which is not fit for print, why, the sooner you get out of it the better." -- Edward Elliott Hale, April 3, 1822 – June 10, 1909

What's the Christian life all about? Well, first and last, grace...lots of it overflowing, bounteous, free...

After that, sanctification, or growing in grace, putting off and putting on. In a word, (which is one of my favorite terms): refinement.

I'm all about language these days so I listen carefully to what I read and hear. Television and magazine ads just love sound bites, as they try to say more in concentrated words...short, pithy words. Intellectuals try to impress us with their long words and provocative terminology. We as Christians need to think carefully about the words we use, in everyday conversation, in the words we fill our minds with and in the writing we offer the world.

The term, gravitas, or 'weighty' best describes the kind of words with which we as Christians need to be most familiar--words that convey deep meanings, not words that are reflective of the godless culture around us. Are you infected with the slang of this ungodly culture? I admit, it's extremely difficult to avoid it and in not avoiding it, we are all infected, to one degree or another, by it. I challenge you to cast it off. Make it a goal this year to put off the language of this ungodly culture and put on the 'language of Canaan.'

Refinement project: clean up your language. Adopt words with godly 'gravitas.' You and all around you will be glad. And you will most likely honor the Lord as you succeed.

However, heavy, meaningful words aren't necessarily the long, apparently impressive ones. Sometimes less is more--here's an example from the 19th century. Here's a poem about short words that I read last night during our webinar. The author was Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-1860) who was a student of Charles Hodge at Princeton Seminary in the mid-19th century. He later became a colleague of Dr. Hodge as a professor at the old Princeton. [Sadly, the modern Princeton has become very liberal.]

Charles Hodge said of his colleague, "In the death of Joseph Addison Alexander we have lost our great glory and defense. Permit me to express my own individual convictions. I regard Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander as incomparably the greatest man I ever knew--as incomparably the greatest man our church has ever produced. His thorough orthodoxy, his fervent piety, humility, faithfulness in the discharge of his duties, and reverence for the Word of God, consecrated all his other gifts. He glorified the Word of God in the sight of his pupils beyond what any man I ever saw had the power of doing."

The Power of Short Words

by Joseph Addison Alexander

Think not that strength lies in the big round word,

Or that the brief and plain must needs be weak.

To whom can this be true who once has heard

The cry for help, the tongue that all men speak

When want or woe or fear is in the throat,

So that each word gasped out is like a shriek

Pressed from the sore heart, or a strange, wild note

Sung by some fay or fiend? There is a strength

Which dies if stretched too far or spun too fine,

Which has more height than breadth, more depth

Than length.

Let but this force of thought and speech be mine,

And he that will may take the sleek fat phrase,

Which glows and burns not, though it gleam and shine;

Light, but not heat—a flash, but not a blaze!

Nor mere strength is it that the short word boasts:

It serves of more than fight or storm to tell—

The roars of waves that clash on rock bound coasts,

The crash of tall trees when the wild winds swell,

The roar of guns, the groans of men that die

On blood stained fields. It has a voice as well

For them that far off on their sick-beds lie,

For them that weep, for them that mourn the dead;

For them that laugh, and dance, and clap the hand.

To Joy’s quick step as well as Grief’s slow tread,

The sweet, plain words we learn at first keep time;

And though the theme be sad or gay or grand,

With each, with all, these may be made to chime,

In thought or speech or song, in prose or rhyme.

Perhaps some of you will remember from our first webinar taught last fall that Anglo-Saxon words are the strongest in the English language. In this poem, of the 289 one-syllable words employed, only 23 are not of Anglo-Saxon origin. [Would you like to know which are not? Here’s the list: round, brief, plain, cry, pressed, strange, note, fay, fine, force, phrase, serves, coasts, voice, dance, joy, grief, theme, gay, grand, chime, prose and rhyme.]

While we're on the subject of chopping and cutting, whittling down our words and phrases to size, maybe we should take a break and chop up a salad. Here's one of my favorites:

Mixed Baby Spinach and Arugula Salad


1 box of organic baby spinach and arugula
one of the following (or all three, if you prefer):

cherry tomatoes
red bell peppers
dried cranberries

feta or goat cheese crumbles
almond slivers
Asian ginger dressing


Put the mixed greens in a salad bowl and add either cherry tomatoes, sliced red bell peppers or dried cranberries. Sometimes, I add all three. Sprinkle liberally with feta or goat cheese crumbles and almond slivers. Add the ginger dressing and dig in! I could eat this till the cows come home! (Uh-oh, there goes my reputation as an English teacher -- I told my class not to use old worn-out cliches!)

I promised several things during the class last night--recipes, the poem I read by Joseph Addison Alexander, a spell-binding speech by Daniel Webster at the 50th anniversary of the Bunker Hill battle with Lafayette present. I will deliver all of these; but first, I want to invite you to a very special tea party at my house. During our last webinar session on Thursday evening, March 24th, I will host a 'cyber tea party' and invite you to hold real ones in your own homes that day or evening. Take some pictures and post them with a link so we can enjoy your tea parties, too. Mine will actually be held next Wednesday, replete we hope, with musical offerings by the young ladies who have been invited, dainty tea party finger foods, girls in pastel shades and lace and maybe some hats! We'll read poetry, hear some music and discuss 'polite moments.'

In connection with this event, I'd love to share some of your favorite tea party finger food recipes on this blog and during the webinar. Please send any you'd like for me to share to this e-mail address:

Daniel Webster's speech tomorrow, Lord willing.

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