Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Words

I read in the paper today that new words have been added in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. They added words like “crunk,” a type of Southern-style rap music; “speed dating,” a way of channel surfing people of the opposite sex; and “ginormous,” a hybrid word, combining giant and enormous. It means, “extremely large.” Duh.

They added these and about 100 other words to the dictionary. They want to make sure that words are not passing fads, but are truly becoming part of the vernacular. They check for usage of the words in informal and formal writing to make sure that the words are broadly accepted.

There are some critics who insist on the purity of language and oppose such additions to the dictionary. They seem to advocate virtually no change in vocabulary at all.

However, reading just about any older book will show you how the English language has changed. I can read a book from the 1950s and quickly pick up on turns of phrase that we no longer use. It seems the older the book, the more glaring the contrast between “now-speak” and “then-speak.” Have you read a Shakespeare play lately? Did people really talk like that in the 1500s?

The New Testament is a collection of writings from the first century. These are old writings in the Greek language. We don’t talk that way anymore. Even people who speak Greek don’t talk that way anymore. But the NT was written in the language of the day. It was written in Koiné Greek, the street language, the slang language of the day. It was intended for a ginormous audience of regular people.

That’s why we need to keep expressing the truth of the Bible in common, everyday language. Ordinary people need to hear its message. The important thing is that the message from God has not changed. Human nature has not changed. We still need redemption, and Jesus is the only Redeemer.

Someone once said that language is like a river. It constantly flows. You can dam up a river, but then it is no longer a river. You can try to stop all changes in language, but then you just have an obsolete dictionary.