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)!