Needless and Faulty Repetition

Shall I tell him his mistake?" It was a lay­man speaking, as our paths crossed the other day.

By C. E. WENIGER, Dean and Professor of Speech, S.D.A. Seminary

Shall I tell him his mistake?" It was a lay­man speaking, as our paths crossed the other day.

"What mistake?" I questioned in reply. I did not know who made it, nor did I ask.

It was this way. My layman-friend had heard his preacher mispronounce a common English word seven times in one sermon. The word was perverse, and the preacher pronounced it as if it were spelled preverse.

I did not hesitate to encourage Brother Lay­man to tell the preacher his mistake, provided that he did it kindly. But what a pity that the preacher needed to be told. And I wonder whether he similarly says prespiration for per­spiration„ and pervaricate for prevaricate, and childern for children, and interduce for intro­duce. The gravity of the case lies in the fact that the word mispronounced is often the key word of the message, and the error is therefore emphasized by its continued repetition.

Take another example. The preacher was talking about Melchizedek, but every time he used the name he called him Melchezedek. The pronunciation stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. I wonder whether he called a miracle a mericle, pronounced spiritual as if spelled sper­itual, and otherwise confused the short i-sound and the short e-sound of the English language.

What is true of faults in pronunciation may also be true of flaws in usage. Recently I heard a preacher announce his sermon references as chapter 8 of the Psalms, chapter 23, chapter 87, etc. Apparently he did not know that the Book of Psalms is not a work divided into chapters, but rather consists of a series of individual poems, each of which is called a psalm. He should have referred, for example, to Psalm 8, Psalm 23, or Psalm 87.

Again, the other day I heard a preacher use the phrase "over here' repeatedly in giving the text references of his sermon. The references were "over here in Deuteronomy 32:1o," "over here in John 3 :17," "over here in Matthew 5 :16,." etc. How much better to omit the redun­dancy entirely than to allow the trite phrase to grate on the ears of the hearers.

Brethren, let's polish the tools of our profes­sion. I like to keep before me the ideal sug­gested in Acts of the Apostles, page 40: "From this time forth [Pentecost] the language of the disciples was pure, simple, and accurate, whether they spoke in their native tongue or in a foreign language."


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By C. E. WENIGER, Dean and Professor of Speech, S.D.A. Seminary

October 1949

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