There Are Other and Better Words

If the word "great" were suddenly stricken from the English language, I wonder if we preachers could continue our exhortations! Do we use certain words too often?

By J. H. RHOADS, Department Secretary, South Dakota Conference

If the word "great" were suddenly stricken from the English language, I wonder if we preachers could continue our exhortations ! The word is a good and legitimate one, but is it not quite evident that it is being monoto­nously overworked? "Wonderful" perhaps runs a close second in the puny repertoire of many preachers' sermonic adjectives.

A builder might struggle through a con­struction project with only a hammer and a saw, but we would hesitate to call him a car­penter. How much more substantial and at­tractive his product would be if besides the hammer and the saw his equipment included a miter box, squares, screwdrivers, brace and bits, nail sets, gouges, gauges, chisels, planes, drawknives, etc., along with his blueprints. Even so a minister may "get by" with a few standard descriptive words, but his speech will be commonplace, clumsy, unartistic, and inac­curate, and consequently unarresting and inef­fectual. It will be sloppy and shoddy unless it is trued and made accurate by a careful and discriminating selection of synonyms. There is a wealth of beauty and picturesqueness in the language of one who is meticulously selective in the choosing of his descriptive words. I have compiled a list of nouns which occur frequently in the public language of our min­istry, and prefaced each with adjectives which seem much more fitting and exact than the hackneyed "great" which is used far too often. There are numerous other adjectives which, if used, would give a delicate fineness to the entire word picture. Perhaps the ones pre­sented below may not be applicable in every usage, but the list will at least suggest a variety of expression.

If we would be interesting preachers, we must be accurate speakers. Accuracy demands an enlargement and expansiveness of vocabu­lary. Words must make pictures, or congre­gations will sleep. The attention of an audience can be gained and held if words portray an attractive mental panorama. Well-chosen words can lift thought out of the drabness of commonality, giving it pungency and zest. By this simple expedient, dead and inanimate things can be vivified, and made to move in­triguingly before the mind in concise and colorful attractiveness.

To accomplish this, a speaker need not resort to unfamiliar and stilted language. In fact, he should carefully avoid the high-flung, bom­bastic style. There is a place for "two-bit" words, but they are confusing and superfluous in the desk. Nevertheless, there are thousands of infrequently used, yet understandable words which public speakers might use with most pleasing effect if they would put forth the effort to bring them within the scope of their speaking vocabularies.

God has given to us, that we might convey it to others, a message supreme in its importance, universal in its comprehensiveness, incontro­vertible in its evidences, impelling in its power, replete in its consolation, and tran­scendently glorious in its consummation! Surely the harbingers of such holy and exalted tidings should be possessed of an ardent ac­quisitiveness in their search for the choicest language facilities, that they might be "en­riched by Him, in all utterance."


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By J. H. RHOADS, Department Secretary, South Dakota Conference

October 1941

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