Speak to be Understood

What did he say?

Words fascinate me. We have a daughter living in England and I’m starting to have a hard time understanding her. Oh, her accent hasn’t changed but the vocabulary has. Our little grand-daughter, India, just had a “jab” (vaccination). Meanwhile Heather has been busy “hoovering” the carpets. It’s been a little cold, so you’ll need to wear a “jumper” (sweater).

I’m told Winston Churchill was invited to a proper-Bostonian luncheon during one of his visits to the United States. The women were thrilled and decided to serve the famous prime-minister a typical American meal of fried chicken. (That in itself was pretty remarkable for these blue-blooded ladies!) As Mr. Churchill was being served, they asked him which piece he would prefer to which he answered, “I believe I would like a breast.”

The ladies were affronted by his brazen language. The chairwoman politely explained, “Mr. Churchill, we ask for ‘white meat’ or ‘dark meat.’” The Englishman smiled and the next day sent the hostess a corsage along with the note, “I would be honored if you would pin this to your white meat.”

Language is a funny thing and Christians are often guilty of innocently using “stained glass vocabulary” – language that tends to baffle rather than communicate with our non-Christian friends. For example, if your neighbor asks about our usual music in worship, we might say, “We sing acapella.”  You will probably get a puzzled expression in response. (The Microsoft spell-checker doesn’t know that word either! “Acapella” comes from the Latin for “as in church” – to sing without instrumental accompaniment.) Perhaps a better answer would have been, “We worship un-plugged.”

A plane lost all of her instruments during final approach in a fog over Seattle. The pilot was desperate – especially as he barely missed an office building – but he was quick thinking and shouted at a man in the window, “Where am I?”

“You’re in an airplane.”

The pilot immediately turned to bearing 342, lowered his flaps and made a perfect touch down. The co-pilot was amazed and told the captain, “That guy’s answer was 100 percent accurate but totally unhelpful!”

“Yes, when I heard him, I knew it had to be Microsoft technical support so I knew exactly where we were and landed the plane.”

Not everyone was raised in the church and understands our jargon so our challenge is the same as it always has been: to make the message clear.

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