Thursday, February 16, 2006

Misquoting Jesus

Misquotings, misspellings or otherwise missing the mark are pet peeves of mine. I know I'm likely the chief of these sinners, but it doesn't change the fact that my editorial hackles are raised when people make simple errors--unless, of course, their mistakes provide me with some sort of entertainment. A lot of those come from church through e-mails, bulletins or Power Point presentations. Here are a couple I've run across recently:

God promises a safe landing, not a clam passage.

What's a clam passage? I always thought clams were pretty sedentary.

The treasures of God are more precious than God.

I assume this person meant "more precious than gold," but you know what happens when we assume . . .

More subtle, perhaps, is when two incompatible activities are joined, such as

The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."

That's probably made up, but what isn't made up is that on multiple occasions I've been invited to speak at some event, and immediately before I start talking a band plays the song "Let My Words Be Few." Not cool, folks, not cool.

I'm an editor, so stuff like this is supposed to get my attention and raise my blood pressure. But I've also had the experience of people feeling self-conscious about how they talk in front of me, as though I'm secretly editing them as they speak, making notes about how I will incorporate their torturous English into a post such as this one. I feel bad for those folks and try to put them at ease, but ultimately it's just a professional hazard.

As unfortunate it is that people make embarrassing errors in how they communicate, it's perhaps more unfortunate that we allow our fear of embarrassment override our desire for meaningful community. I'm reminded of a scene from A Fish Called Wanda:

Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time? Being so... stifled by this dread of doing the wrong thing?

Of saying to someone "Are you married?" and hearing "My wife left me today"?

Or saying..."Do you have children?" and being told they all burned
to death on Wednesday?

You see, Wanda, we're all...terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so... dead.

2 comments:

Pete Juvinall said...

My wife is and editar and zhe am editing me every single thing I zay...andd I don't feel zelf-consious no matter what I zay.

Seriously, seeing the depth of how much she does makes me appreciate the technical prowess that is involved in such a job; I talk about bytes and packets and she talks about point of view and commas.

--pete

Margaret Feinberg said...

I get the same thing from people...they write in and apologize about their email right away before they even write anything...not realizing that I'm not worried about the correctness and (make a zillion typos myself all the time)...makes me think about our relationship with God and efforts/desire to be perfect with him.