Things that are different are not the same….and very little is truly “awesome”

When I was a kid, ‘da bomb’ might blow up, ‘dope’ was something dangerous and illegal, ‘LOL’ were the first three letters of “lollipop,” ‘frickin’ didn’t exist, ‘tweets’ came from birds, and ‘rockin’ was something you did in a chair, not with an article of clothing.

But that was back when English was a language that was taught, learned, and utilized to express the wide range of human emotions and experiences, giving each event its’ own unique description through use of words. We need a revival of our language, one driven by reasonable relativism, accurate adjectives, infrequent interjections, and meaningful metaphors. And maybe a little less alliteration. 😀

These days, simple, easy-to-understand fundamentals have gone by the wayside. When I was serving as pastor of a church in Tennessee about ten years ago, our two daughters were quite ably home-schooled by my wife for six years. One thing we taught them was, “things that are different are not the same.” You would not think that would be necessary, but in our society today, it is. We used that phrase as a tool for teaching them Bible doctrine. (Example: there is ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘the kingdom of heaven’ in the Bible. Those two things are different, and therefore not the same, even though they have some similarities). But most Christians fail to make that distinction. Why? They haven’t been taught that most fundamental truth I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.

So how do we get back to using the English language to the fullest? What steps must we take to broaden our vocabulary beyond the media-induced, ‘bad rap song lyric’ level? Here are a few steps, followed by an example.

1. Read much. Read a variety. The pathway to linguistic dexterity winds through the varying terrain of literature, new and old, classic and contemporary.

2. Think before you speak, but especially before, during, and after writing. I’ve had several articles published in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine. One of their oft-repeated bits of literary advice goes like this: “Edit. Edit. Edit. Then edit some more.” I know from personal experience how helpful this can be, especially in terms of avoiding repetition of words and phrases.

3. Use a dictionary, not just for words you don’t understand, but also for words you wish to use, in order to ensure you are using them correctly. A Thesaurus is also very helpful. Even while writing this post, I have googled “synonym for —-,” or “define —-,” several times. It’s an easy, and invaluable (I just googled invaluable, because it always seems – to me – to mean the opposite of what it does!), tool to use in your writing.

The example linked below is to a piece I wrote while deployed at sea on the Spruance-class destroyer USS John Hancock (DD-981) around Christmas, 1999. It is somewhat lengthy, but I hope you’ll read it. I believe if you start it, you will finish, especially if you have any ties to the Naval service. But I hope you will stick around to the end for the pictures it paints as you read.

One final thing before you get to the “I Love the Navy” link: “awesome” is defined as, “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.” I would present that very few things deserve to be characterized as “awesome.” Maybe an atomic bomb’s destructive power, the tsunamis of December 2006 and March 2011, F5 tornadoes, the sun, nature’s perfect harmony, the miracle of birth and God.

Here’s the link. Happy reading (and writing)!

http://www.goatlocker.org/retire/lovenavy.htm

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3 thoughts on “Things that are different are not the same….and very little is truly “awesome”

  1. Robert,
    I really like this post. I too agree that the English language is interpreted even in the same way in the real world as it is when we are taught about it in school. I feel like if that were to change maybe there wouldn’t be so much confusion and misunderstanding. The way you present your information is very interesting and engaging and makes me want to read to the end. I also appreciate how you integrate pictures or sayings that corresponds to what you are talking about in your post. You did a very good job overall.
    Jenny

  2. Robert,
    Amen to that! I completely agree with you. We seem to have become a society where abbreviating everything and using poor grammar and made up nonsense words is celebrated instead of looked down on. How truly sad. Some of this language really annoys me. Any time something says, “My bad”, instead of “sorry”, I cringe inside.
    I couldn’t agree more with your steps. And really, they aren’t hard to follow. The simple act of reading–real reading, not reading text and tweets–seems to have become a lost art. You can’t speak properly if you don’t read something that is well written. I often wonder if people really can “think before they speak”. Nowadays, we seem to encourage stream of consciousness verbalizing (i.e. say anything and everything that comes to mind). Really? When did that become okay? Finally, I love your point about using a dictionary. It’s quite possible that some kids today don’t even know what that is. Like it’s some kind of mythical, historical book that only a few chosen people can access. Sad, indeed.
    Terrific post!
    Steve

  3. Robert,
    This is a really great post. I think it very well thought out and you have made some pretty wonderful and important points. It is actually really funny that you chose to focus on the word “awesome.” Whenever I use that word or hear it used in everyday conversation it actually crosses my mind about the true meaning of the word, awe-some, something leaving you with a true and overwhelming feeling of awe. My pet peeve is getting a returning text with a “ty” instead of an “old-fashioned” thank you, or anything of the like. More so, however, I have a very hard time with anyone staring at their phone or iPad while I’m trying to have a conversation with them, a bit off topic, but involving a different type of language…non-verbal. I believe, as a society we have lost the respect of proper communication in all forms. It is rather disappointing.

    Great post. I hope you’ll keep up the blog after the course ends and we can continue critique and comments. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing this term, thank you for sharing.

    Jessi

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