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What Happened To The "R"?
by Tom Wacaster

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for our weekly bulletin entitled “Excuses and Explanations.” In that bulletin I quoted a reliable source for an adequate explanation as to the diversity between a Texan’s southern draw and a northerner’s challenging dialect of the English language. I provide a quote of what I wrote then to set the background for this week’s column: "The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian 'pahks his cah,' the lost R's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to 'warsh' his car and invest in 'erl' wells."

A few of you pointed out that my Sunday evening slide presentation had a major flaw in its spelling—not just once, but on every slide that had the same heading. I had intended to use the words of our Lord, “You have heard that it was said by them of old.” But the “R” migrated to who knows where, and the quote read “You have head that it was said.” The reason for the repeated misspelled word is attributed to the marvelous “cut and paste” ability of computer software. So the mistake was perpetuated because of an original mistake and my inability to catch the mistake before making subsequent slides. Some of you got tickled, though I could not, from my perspective understand why so many of you were smiling like you were.

We all make spelling mistakes from time to time. Here are a few that I came across in my research for this article: A sign on a high school marque during “Literacy Improvement Week” read: “Laeping to Literacy.” A learning center in Georgia placed a sign in front of the property. It was improperly titled: “Chalenger Learning Center.” Another school had the sign at the street crossing spelled “Shcool Crossing.” Spelling errors are always embarrassing. Just how embarrassing depends upon the nature and location of that spelling mistake. A spelling mistake on a large sign is a pretty big deal. When that sign is advertising the services of a school, it's an even bigger deal. And when the word that has been incorrectly spelled is 'grammar'... well, that's about as embarrassing as it gets. No wonder the school officials were embarrassed when at a Kansas City school the sign out front read: “Christian Brothers’ Grammer School.” One more, and then I’ll move on. A news reporter was covering a public event honoring Martin Luther King, and happened to take a picture of two women carrying signs alluding to Mr. King’s famous statement, “I have a dream.” One sign read, “I have a draem”; the other “I have a deram.”

Now back to my spelling blunder. I take consolation in the fact that I am not the only one who makes spelling mistakes. It seems, however, that not only do I make my fair share, I seem to excel on occasions. The first book I published was a little 250 page book, “Studies in Galatians.” I was so proud the day I picked up the 1,000 copies just hot off the press. I immediately opened one of the boxes, took out a book, and flipped open the book to examine the quality of the product. The first thing I saw was a spelling error! And I was not even looking for spelling errors. How embarrassing! Since most of us make mistakes on spelling from time to time, I thought I might make just a few observations and lessons we might learn from just such an occasion.

First, we should be manly enough to admit our mistakes when pointed out. It would have been foolish to simply dismiss the accusations that I had misspelled a word in my slide presentation with a wave of the hand and arrogantly proclaim: “Mistake? Who me? Make a mistake?” Yet there are multitudes who, when embarrassed by their mistakes, refuse to take the blame. It seems that politicians and college professors are among the worst. A close runner up are the environmentalists who simply refuse to entertain the idea that their global warming theories might just be a mistake. Spelling mistakes, and even a misguided position one might take on global warming might not have devastating consequences, but the humility necessary to bring one to repentance could spell the difference between where one will spend eternity.

Second, if you make a mistake it proves that you are human. We have all heard about the man who claimed he only made one mistake in life and that was the time he mistakenly thought he had been wrong but as it turned out he was right. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Refusal to admit occasional sin is an indication of the absence of truth.

Third, repentance is the key that unlocks the pathway to correction. Repentance is simply a change of action based upon a change of mind. Biblical repentance is always preceded by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 10). An occasional misspelled word may not call for “godly sorrow,” unless of course the misspelled word in some way led to more serious consequences. On the other hand, mistakes when it comes to one’s relationship to God are serious and the only avenue for correcting a severed relationship with God comes through repentance.

Finally, we should be grateful to those who take the time to help us recognize and recover from sin. The brother who is willing to risk your friendship to point out error in your life is a true brother indeed. “Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness: looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). He who is courageous enough to point out your sin is simply doing what God commanded him to do. Personally, I am thankful when a brother points out my sin, for I know when he does that that he cares for my soul.

My spell check did not catch my mistake last Sunday evening. So I guess I can blame it on the machine, our crazy language, and my inattention to what I was doing. Oh, one more thing. At least I know you were paying attention; that beets beats an audience whose eyes are open but whose mind is asleep!

~~~~~

The apostle Paul asked the brethren on one occasion to bear with him in his foolishness; not that he was really acting foolish, but that in their minds they thought he was, and he simply took that and ran with it. The English language is quite astonishing, and not only do we have words that, when misspelled, are overlooked by the spell checker, but oft times a word that sounds like the word you want, but is actually spelled differently, will escape the spell check detection. Here is an amusing anecdote regarding the English language. I have omitted some of the quote due to space limitations, but I think you get the picture:

We'll begin with a box and the plural is boxes.
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

The one fowl is a goose but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may fiund a lone mouse, or a whole set of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of a foot and you show me your feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why should not the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural wouldn't be hose.
And the plural of cat is cats and not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say Mother, we never say Methren,

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis and shim.

So English, I fancy you will all agree,
Is the funniest language you ever did see.

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