What’s in a word? Could be plenty ...

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 7/17/20

The good folks who listen to me from Sunday to Sunday ­— maybe “endure” would be a better word — know how I often speak of the importance of words and how we should strive to use the …

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What’s in a word? Could be plenty ...

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The good folks who listen to me from Sunday to Sunday ­— maybe “endure” would be a better word — know how I often speak of the importance of words and how we should strive to use the right one, and how we should keep them soft and sweet because we never know when we might have to eat them, and so on and so forth.

The reality of words is that they’re about all we have to convey thoughts and ideas and such — short of body language and action, not that those two aren’t important in how we get thoughts and ideas across.

Anyway, from time to time I have thought about how the two vocations in which I have spent most of my life — journalism and pastoral ministry — both rise and fall on words and their correct and appropriate usage. In those two fields, the right word can be what saves the day, and the wrong one can be the kiss of death.

Every profession, I know, has its quirks, failures and shortcomings. Doctors, I’ve heard it said, bury their mistakes; lawyers send theirs off to jail. Writers and speakers, however, tend to put their bad moves out in the public domain for all to see forever. In short, if it makes it in print or film or tape or DVD, it’s there forever.

I’ve had my share of them. Once I did a piece for the paper in which I lamented that much of our adult population still had trouble reading and writing and that the local community college had launched a program aimed at helping older folks (by definition, I guess, “non-teenagers”) improve themselves in those areas.

Dutifully I did the story and then cast about for a headline, and thought I’d prepared a good one when I set in type the words “Literacy still problem in Chatham” and then followed it up with a smaller headline underneath proclaiming “CCCC working against it”.

I’m pretty sure about 5,000 copies of that paper were printed before I got the chance to holler “Stop the presses!”

During the years of preparing newspaper pages and church bulletins, there have been similar instances. Now they’re funny; at the time, it wasn’t always that way.

The curse isn’t limited to only me. Many, if not most or all, of the folks who put pen or keyboard in hand have tasted it. A dear little lady who for years reported the comings and goings of a certain community in the local media once proclaimed that a young lad of that community was off serving in Uncle Sam’s Navy on a vessel known as an LST (Landing Ship Tank — a big ol’ boy whose front drops down so the tank can crawl off). The writer reported that the young sailor, as part of his duties, “took a trip on LSD.”

If it’s true misery loves company, and maybe laughs with it, a book I picked up some time ago, a collection of mis-types, has given me cause to know they’re everywhere. I especially enjoyed the one that said, “The Fulton County Humane Society is hosting their 4th annual beagle barbecue. Come on and join them in this unique event.” And the church newsletter item that read “The church board of elders has called a special meeting today to decide what it did last week.”

Bottom line is: at least we’re trying ...

Keep those words soft and sweet ... and don’t forget “please” and “thank you.”

Especially in these hard times.


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