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Word Play - Weighty and glorious words

WORLD Radio - Word Play - Weighty and glorious words

We can miss a lot when we oversimplify

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NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, November 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Maybe you’re a longtime listener, but not yet a first-time giver. And if I’ve described you, this is for you.

November is the month when we ask those who’ve never given before to consider supporting our work.

Putting together a program like this is no small thing and that’s why we need your help to keep this program coming your way.

EICHER: Well, that’s right and we realize it’s no small thing to make financial gifts. We realize family budgets are tight and getting tighter. We’ve all been feeling price inflation these days. We get it.

But here’s our answer to the problem of inflation: A matching gift. Maybe you heard, but it bears repeating: One longtime supporting family has pledged a dollar-for-dollar match—all the way up to $40,000. So if you give $50, the matching gift will inflate that, times two, and turn it into a $100 gift and that way we can put inflation to work for you instead of against you.

BROWN: That’s the kind of inflation I think we can all get behind! Love that.

So would you visit wng.org/donate and make your first-ever gift of support? The web address, wng.org/donate.

Please give what you can and help ensure that we’re able to continue bringing this program to you every day.

EICHER: Speaking of inflation, the November Word Play makes an argument for word-inflation—sometimes adorned, embellished, dare we say, inflated language is the right call. Here is George Grant!

GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: Simpler is not always better. To be sure, good communication demands the elimination of grammatical clutter, jargon, purple prose, and obscure or ostentatious vocabulary. Editors, teachers, and grammarians regularly remind us to “Lighten the cognitive load;” “Eliminate excess;” “Boil everything down to an elevator pitch;” “Describe it so that an eight-year old can understand it;” “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” And they’re right. Whenever possible we ought to keep our sentences short and sweet, utilizing words our readers and listeners won’t have to Google to understand.

Whenever possible. Sometimes though, it’s just not possible. Every so often, simplification ends up being over-simplification.

Take the word whosoever for instance. Admittedly, both antiquated and complicated, the word is nevertheless, very nearly indispensable as a pronoun and an adverb. It was likely first coined by William Tyndale in 1535 for his translation of the New Testament. Taken from the Old Saxon term qua-so-quiddity, Tyndale’s elegant solution to a syntactical muddle then became standard usage. Shakespeare inserted it in his 1595 performance of Richard II. And of course, the word makes regular appearances in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible:

Jesus said to His disciples, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). And again, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). The Apostle Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, “It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

Most modern translations simplify whosoever to whoever. Alas, that simplification is an over-simplification. Whoever is merely an expansive form of who, and while it can still be used as a pronoun and an adverb, it lacks both the emphatic comprehensiveness and the lyrical expressiveness of whosoever.

Thomas Carlyle understood this. Writing long after the King’s English had been relentlessly modernized, he declared, “This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”

Sometimes, weighty and glorious concepts demand weighty and glorious language, lofty language, embellished and adorned language. We do well when we ensure that medium and message match.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:25).

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Indeed, simpler is not always better.

I’m George Grant.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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