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Keep the Perspective Right

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Archives / 1931 / December



Keep the Perspective Right

Leo Thiel

By Leo F. Thiel


Correctness of speech is an im­portant tool in the minister's kit. We expect good workmanship from a skilled mechanic with proper tools. Just so, correct language is an im­portant asset to the minister.

But let us keep our perspective right. Good English, while important, is not all-important. Other essentials merit due consideration from the pub­lic worker. Sincerity, earnestness, and zeal go far in making up a min­ister's lack of ability to use the lan­guage tool correctly. Sympathy and human understanding will commend the minister's discourse, even though the language falters. Absence of pride and a spirit of absolute honesty will inspire confidence in spite of poor syn­tax, weak correlation, and even bad grammar. After all, the message and the messenger are of greater importance than the vehicle through which the message is given.

The ideal combination is honesty, sincerity, zeal, energy, and a thorough knowledge of the best speech. If one must lack any of these essentials, it is of the greatest importance that the minister be sincere and honest, for sincerity and rugged honesty may overcome deficiencies in speech. On the other hand, English, no matter how excellent, can never overcome weak faith, insincerity, and listless­ness.

The ideal minister inspires confi­dence in his message and in himself as the truthful advocate of the mes­sage. A friend of mine recently told of a young minister who was asked to speak at one of the important eve­ning services at camp meeting. He acquitted himself well. My friend mentioned his unique presentation, his logical outline, his pertinent illus­trations, and his excellent English. "But," said he, "Elder — cannot make people feel that he really be­lieves what he says and means what he preaches." In spite of excellent technical training, this young man has far to go before he can become a suc­cessful preacher.

To be more specific, a teacher once told his grammar class to "look out for like." Too often we use this word as a conjunction. Proper usage tells us that "like" is a preposition, not a conjunction. The verb does not cause us much trouble.

Correct: He is like his father.

Incorrect: He acts like his father acts.

Remember, "Iike" is not a conjunc­tion. It is a preposition.

Correct: She sings like her teacher. Incorrect: The teacher sings like she talks.

The use of "like" as a conjunction is one of the most frequent errors I have noticed. Closely following this is the use of "each" as a pronoun and its antecedent. Let us bear in mind that "each" refers to a singular object. "Let each boy take his hat." This is not hard. But when we have a plural noun in the sentence, we are inclined to say, "Let each of the girls here take their handkerchief." This is an error. We should say, "Let each of the girls here take her handkerchief."

The misuse of "like" is definitely an error of grammar. The faulty agree­ment of "each" and a following ref­erence word is not only an error of speech, but also an error of thinking.

Takoma Park, D. C.

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