Words and Phrases
Posted on September 28, 2014

I've been thinking about writing a sermon entitled "Phrases To Throw Out (And A Handful To Keep)." But, my sermon titles and biblical texts for the rest of the year have already been submitted, and there was no room for that one. No problem. Since I view my blogs as mini-sermons anyway, I'll just preach it this way.

I continue to hear phrases that mean little due to overuse OR are inadvertently offensive. For example: "Awesome." The word "awesome" means: “inspiring feelings of wonder or fear.” Not every suggestion to go to the corner for a hot dog or every Geico commercial genuinely "inspire feelings of wonder." I think the word should be used when it actually applies -- like when viewing soul-inspiring scenes of nature or masterful works of art. Niagara Falls or Michelangelo's works in the Sistine Chapel inspire wonder and awe. Bumper cars at Coney Island, even though enjoyable, do not.

Another phrase to discard, IMHO, is "You know what I'm saying?" We hear and use it all the time, more or less to underscore or emphasize a point we have just made in conversation. However, it comes across as meaning: "Have I dumbed down my statements sufficiently that even you can understand?"

A third to let go of is one I used in the preceding paragraph: IMHO. It means, "In my humble opinion." I've never heard anyone use those words, not even once, who sounded humble when they did. It's a sort of "Let me give you the last word on that topic" phrase.

There are so many others:
“It goes without saying” (but, you are about to say it)
“Group selfie” (if it’s a “group” it’s not a “selfie” – pick one)
“Yada, Yada, Yada” (I used it, too, but the show has been off the air for sixteen years)
“Making history” (If it is actually history, then it has already been made)
“BOHO” (the word is “Bohemian” – where is the second “O” in “Bohemian?)
“Me thinks” (If you’re not Hamlet, it just sounds weird)

There are other phrases we use that should never be discarded. In fact, we ought to use them even more often than we do:
“God bless you.”
“I’ll be thinking of you.”
“I’ll be praying for you.”
“Thank you.”
“How can I help?”
“Tell me your opinion.”
“You matter.”
“Don’t lose hope.”
“I love you.”
“Would you like to be my guest at church?”

Even some of the old, clichéd ones that people might summarily dismiss possess power to transform the ways we live (and thus should be retained):
“What would Jesus do?”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Whatever you would want others to do to you, do so to them.”

I love words and phrases. My whole life has been about that, both preaching and writing. Periodically, I think, we should go through our vocabulary much as we do our closets, determining what to throw out and what to keep... IMHO, of course.


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