The Nene Crossings Benefice

I think language is Magic

Words are like something out of 'Harry Potter' and seem to change their shape and meaning at the drop of a hat. You have to be a bit careful with them, though, because when we change our language, we often change our meaning as well. For instance. We've had the bathroom updated, and our friends tell us it's 'stunning'. Thankfully, no-one has yet been rendered unconscious in it, by walking into a door or getting electrocuted by the lighting. And only the other day, I was surprised to hear of a collision between Junctions 13 and 14 on the M1. How could this be? The two junctions are miles apart, and have rarely, if ever, been seen to move.

Even official notices do things like this. A friend of mine once spent fifteen minutes on the London Underground, trying to borrow a dog, because a sign clearly stated 'Dogs must be carried on the escalators'. ( He almost got arrested for shoplifting, when he simply obeyed the request 'Please take a basket', and walked off with one.). And have you noticed how telepathic waiters have to be, these days? Ann and I were in a restaurant, and the menu had a footnote, suggesting we should ask a waitress if we had a food allergy. How would she know?

It's been going on for years. What are we to make of the alleged wartime headlines, 'Free French Push Bottles Up Germans', and 'Rommel Flies Back To Front' ?

( Don't even THINK of getting me started on apostrophes! )

But words do have a power which echoes down the centuries. I was flying five miles high, above the Australian desert, and translating a mediaeval play ( as you do ), when it suddenly struck me that here I was, reading words written 900 years ago by someone who could have had no inkling of powered flight; of a place called Australia; of printing; of word processors; - but who could still speak across time itself, in an all-but-forgotten language, to someone whose very existence he could never know.

There used to be a saying ( and, possibly, still is ) that, whatever it is, 'The Greeks have a word for it'. Their word for 'word' was 'logos'. It meant more than just a unit of language. It gives us words like 'logic' - a clear way of arguing; 'logo' - a design for advertising various organisations; 'dialogue' - so we can talk to each other; and anything that ends in '-ology'. ( If you've got an ology you're doing fine. Remember B.T.? )

Without words there would be no poetry; no songs; no stories; no sense of order or design; no human interaction or cooperation; no advance in science or technology ( scientists have to invent new words, or modify old ones to describe their discoveries ); no meaning; no way of expressing, designing or creating anything at all, for we have to put our thoughts into words. 'Logos' means all this.

Perhaps this is how Saint John felt about God when he wrote 'In the beginning ... the Word was with God ... and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us ...'

See you Sunday? God Bless.



Derek Oakley.