My previous post was entitled, Who Do You Play For?
Some of you may have cringed when you read that title: the grammar seems atrocious.
Shouldn’t it properly be worded, “For Whom Do You Play?”
We could go into an investigation of the use of objective pronouns and the avoidance of dangling whatevers on the end of sentences.
But I won’t.
I chose the title for yesterday’s post in full knowledge that it may not be grammatically correct.
I chose this “wrong” wording for one simple reason: it reflects reality.
I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who is so proper as to actually say “For Whom Do You Play?”–and certainly, no one who’s ever appeared in any of my imaginary conversations speaks that way!
Language is a wonderful tool, and I have no desire to malign it out of laziness or ignorance. But it is a tool. As such, it should serve our purposes for interacting with one another, sharing ideas, instructing, challenging, encouraging. It should not be an oppressor.
And we should not hide behind language in order to avoid reality. (How do you like that? I just began a paragraph–much less, a sentence–with a conjunction!)
It has happened more than once that a dialogue between two people gets derailed over word usage, rather than for a lack of clarity about the idea expressed.
I have seen theological debates get bogged down in the fact that someone used the wrong word or abbreviated an idea. Rather than dealing with the heart of the issue, argument arose over what was ultimately a superficial, semantic issue.
Even within my own marriage, there are times when a conversation gets derailed (usually only briefly) as I’m corrected with regard to a particular word choice, when I think my overall meaning was clear enough.
This is not to belittle the proper use of language. The book Alice in Wonderland is an insightful treatise on communication, but most of these points will be missed by those who’ve only seen the Disney cartoon. This book needs to be read in order to appreciate its full reflections on language, as even the formatting of the words on the page serve to demonstrate the author’s thoughts.
I do believe that we should endeavor to use language well because words do have meaning–they cannot be used arbitrarily or twisted into ridiculosity (yes, that’s a word) because of our personal whims. But ultimately, language is a tool. As such, it can be abused, and it can even turn into an obstacle, obfuscating the heart of the interaction between those involved.
So, let’s deal with life, the heart, the real message, without getting distracted by imperfect diction.
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers…. Avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Tim 2:14,16-17a)