Resolve not to use these words in 2013

The problem with slang is that it goes out of fashion as quickly as it comes in.  Few things sound sillier than slang that’s just a little out of date or that is uttered by someone who is not in the group the slang is supposed to define.  Ginnie Graham of the Tulsa World looks at words that gained currency in 2012 but that now beg for elimination:

Adorkable – Even with “New Girl” starring Zooey Deschanel on my DVR, this word has to go.

Amazeballs – Adding “ball” to the end of a word does not make it better.

Cray, or cray-cray – As in “You are acting so cray-cray.” I hear that a lot from my 5-year-old, which makes me crazy enough to get rid of it.

Totes, jelly, YOLO, fro-yo and all other shortened words and phrases – “Totes” means totally, “jelly” refers to jealous, “You only live once” and frozen yogurt” are the others. It doesn’t really save any time not finishing all the words.

Mommy porn – So, the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy gave us this dreadful term, once known as romance. Oh, how I miss the sweet Harlequin-inspired descriptions.

Jeah – Thank you Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte for mixing “good” and “yeah” into popularizing this weird one.

Percents – The Occupy Wall Streeters supported the 99 percent and railed against the 1 percent. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney complained about the 47 percent. Math confuses me, so I’m out.

Mains – Refers to a close, tight-knit group of people, such as “My sister is one of my mains.” My sister would also smack me if I said that.

Literally – All English teachers and speakers of correct grammar cringe at Rob Lowe’s “Parks and Recreation” character bastardizing this word. To review, literally means it happened, “I literally turned the channel.” Everything else is metaphorical or figurative.

Actually – Might as well throw this one in, too. Actually is literally just as irritating in conversation. It’s a word overused to speak down to someone.

“Actually, blue is not your color, and I do know the definition of literally,” I said before my sister smacked me.

Artisanal – Some marketing hipster is laughing somewhere that adding this to every food label literally increased sales. Actually, it doesn’t mean anything.

via Ginnie Graham: Some words deserve to get the ax in new year | Tulsa World.

What other words or expressions of 2012 deserve to be banished in the new year?

How to interpret “kill Americans”

The South Korean rapper Psy–whose “Gangnam Style” goofy dance moves have become the top YouTube video of all time–was once virulently anti-American.  In 2004 at an anti-Iraq war concert, he rapped these lyrics written by a South Korean metal group:

“Kill those f—— Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captive / Kill those f——- Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

Now he is apologizing:

“While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words.”

My interest is not in Psy’s anti-Americanism or his violent lyrics.  I’m sure his apology is sincere.  But what gets me is his reference to “how these lyrics could be interpreted.”  He says to kill Yankees and the girls and women in their families.  In what sense is that statement in need of interpretation?  How else could those words be interpreted, other than as an exhortation to kill Americans and their families?

The notion that all language statements and assertions stand in need of interpretation and may be interpreted in many different ways–including those that contradict the explicit meaning–is wreaking all kinds of havoc.  Especially  when treating the Bible.  Theology has often become an exercise in interpreting away Biblical statements that the theologian does not agree with.

To be sure, some language calls for interpretation, but other language is clear on its face.  Some of the controversies involve questions about which is which. But even interpretation is supposed to help us understand what has been said, rather than undoing what has been said.

via Heat is on South Korean rapper Psy for anti-American rap – The Washington Post.

Words Of The Year

Merriam Webster, the dictionary publisher with a big online presence, has announced the most looked-up words of 2012.  The top two, tied as Words of the Year, are socialism and capitalism.  That Americans evidently don’t know what those two words mean helps explain the election.

Others in the top ten are Democracy, globalization, marriage, bigot, malarkey, meme, touche, schadenfreude, professionalism.

Last year the top word was austerity. The year before that, it was pragmatic.

That Americans don’t know the meaning of these words and so have to look them up explains everything!


via Merriam Webster’s Word Of The Year For 2012.

He comes to us

advent (n.)

“important arrival,” 1742, an extended sense of Advent “season before Christmas” (Old English), from L. adventus “a coming, approach, arrival,” in Church Latin “the coming of the Savior,” from pp. stem of advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + venire “to come”

via Online Etymology Dictionary.

We are now in the season of Advent.  The word derives from the Latin venire (“to come”) + ad (“to”).  So the word can be rendered “He comes to.”  Advent is about Christ coming to us.

Luther said that it isn’t enough to believe that Christ died.  We need to believe that Christ died for us, for me, for you.  Christ rose from the dead for you.  When we realize the “for you,” we have gone from historical information to saving faith.

Similarly, God became Man for you.  Christ came for you, and He still comes to you, and He will come again for you.

May you have a blessed Advent!

The new normal

In the sermon for last Sunday, Pastor Douthwaite employed an interesting turn of phrase:

There’s been a new phrased coined in our civil discourse of late, and that is folks talking about “the new normal.” Is the constant threat of terrorism the new normal? Are gas prices around $4 a gallon the new normal? Is our current partisan divide and the seeming inability for our political parties to work together the new normal? Or in other words, are these things here to stay and so you better get used to them as normal now, or are they just temporary glitches or passing events? Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different answers to those questions.

But it seems to me that we can use that phrase when talking about the Christian life. That in Christ, there is a new normal for you and me. For in Christ, things change. In Christ, things are different. In Christ, we have been made new and so there is a new normal for Christians, which is truly a whole new way of life and of looking at life.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Reformation [observed] Sermon.

Read what Pastor Douthwaite does with this concept, showing how the perfection that was “normal” before the Fall turned into a “new normal” of sin, which, in turn, was changed by Christ into a “new normal” of grace, forgiveness, and joy.

That’s the main point of the sermon, so I don’t want to take away from that.  But I am curious about other kinds of things that used to be “out of the norm,” but are now considered “normal.”  What are some?  How does something go from beyond the pale to become accepted as “normal”?

A new name for God?

From Methodist minister Chris Brundage at Christian Century:

I have a new name for God, at least new to me. The old three-letter word “God” is worn out. Words only last so long before they need to be retired for a season. The word “God” has too much freight on it and too many associations.

I have begun to use a Hebrew word for deity: el. It’s pronounced like the English word ale. (This is an idea I borrowed from Madeleine L’Engle.) El is a simple word, found in the Bible, but it doesn’t have any history for me, and I never use it in my work as a pastor. I walk on the trail in the mornings and talk to el, who hides in the trees. Actually, el is hidden deeply in all things.

I bought a new prayer book to help me talk with el at other times. My old prayer book was looking decrepit, and the cats gnawed off the ribbon markers. My prayer book is published by the Presbyterian Church and includes the psalms along with traditional prayers. It has a Celtic cross on the cover and readings from the daily lectionary in the back, which I read in the Good News Bible or the NRSV. A new prayer book goes well with a new name for God.

via A new name for God | The Christian Century.

First of all, “El” is not a new name for God, simply a word for God in another language.  If a person wants to pray in another language, fine.  If in Biblical Hebrew, so much the better.

But I wouldn’t want to fool with the “name” of God.  The name of God is a concept I suspect we don’t fully appreciate.  In the Bible, God’s “name” is  fraught with spiritual power and taboos, from the Commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) to the injunctions to glorify God’s name and Christ’s promises about praying and acting in His name (talk about a claim to divinity).

Of course, “God” isn’t the name of God–just a noun for who and what He is.  The name of God is expressed in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and is connected to the verb “to be,” as in what He said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  Now that Christ has come, we have a name by which we are to baptize and to worship:  “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Coming up with different names for God, though, cuts us off from the historic and universal church that extends back through time and across the whole world.  Making up your own individual name for God enshrines the individual–not YHWH, not the Trinity–as the locus of devotion.