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Let Us Avoid Slang

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Archives / 1932 / August



Let Us Avoid Slang

Leo Thiel

By Leo Thiel


The proper appreciation of the sol­emn meaning and motive of preach­ing should go far to refine and improve the language of the preacher. A close, vital relationship exists between the solemn message of an earnest preacher and the language through which that message is conveyed.

The language of the minister of the Lord ought to be pure. His diction should be of the best. This does not imply that purity of speech is a type of language that is weak, affected, effeminate, bookish, stilted. Good dic­tion offers abundant room for the for­cible expression of strong ideas. Much of the English of today is the robust descendant of the virile Anglo-Saxon.

One may inquire, What is pure dic­tion? and why object to slang? Pure diction is language that is character­ized by reputable, universal, and pres­ent-day usage. Reputable usage means that the words used are words em­ployed by standard writers and speak­ers. They are the words found in the works of the best writers and on the pages of our leading conservative magazines.

Universal usage implies that the words are in nation-wide use. Various geographical areas of a country have local expressions, which while perhaps understood in other geographical areas, are not largely used in them. Universal usage, a characteristic of pure diction, debars the use of provincial expressions.

Present-day usage means words that are in use today. Words, like fash­ions, come and go. New expressions take the place of older expressions. Archaic, obsolete, and obsolescent ex­pressions (expressions that are no longer used) cannot be called pure diction.

Now about slang. There always has been a group of words and expressions that have been on the border line. Every language has its store of ques­tionable diction. In our land today slang is more perplexing than ever be­fore. The radio has made slang ex­pressions almost universally used and understood.

Two main objections may be cited against the use of slang: (1) Slang expressions are usually questionable in origin; the elements of society that refuse to conform to conventional and lawful practices in other ways seem to find it necessary to express their ideas in an unconventional way. Many of our slang expressions can be traced to the jargon of the underworld. (2) Slang is ephemeral in usage. The slang expressions of today are forgot­ten tomorrow.

Slang is usually inexact and indefi­nite. The aptness of slang and its humor come far short of justifying its use when we give thought to its origin and ephemeral character.

Washington., D. C.

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