The Beauty of Language

Posted: October 19, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I love language. It’s not something the average person probably thinks about on a regular basis. It’s just something we take for granted. But sometimes I ponder this fascinating concept of the human language, and every time I do I am newly amazed. Language is a beautiful mystery. It astounds me that one person can exchange thoughts with another through this medium of what we call words. Different sounds can be skillfully produced in a specific manner in order to convey a message. Language can be mastered in such a way that the same message can be stated simply or it can be eloquently expressed with clear, articulate words. I love that we have synonyms – words that mean the same thing – so that simply using alternative choices in phrasing prevents repetition. These synonyms have the potential to make a sentence more aesthetically pleasing. For example, I could say that a car was very cool. Ok. But you would get a better picture if I told you that a car looked so sleek and sophisticated that it turned the head of the Porsche driver next to him.

That these vibrations and sounds can be written in symbols (letters) that, when put together in a precise pattern, transfer a thought to another person, amazes me. You do it every day without any conscious thought. You’re doing it right now. I’ve assembled these otherwise meaningless letters in a string, and your mind puts these characters together as something meaningful and coherent. Wow! Communication is happening! Who would think of something so great but God?

Falling under that category of written language, we have punctuation. I can put the same words and same letters in the same order, and the meaning can be altogether different. Rogers’ Communications Inc., a Canadian telecommunications company, lost 2.13 million dollars in 2006 due to a misplaced comma in a contract, allowing another company to wriggle out of a commitment (read the full story here). Clearly, the rules of language are important to understand for the sake of effective communication.

And then there’s the story of the Tower of Babel. Men become so greedy and power-hungry that they decide to build a tower stretching to heaven. They wanted to show their independence from God. “We’re fine on our own, thank you.” God, not so pleased with their show of pride, confuses their language. With no easy means of mass communication, progress comes to a screeching halt and turmoil erupts. We as humans are so corrupt that we can take God’s blessing of communication and use it to serve ourselves. We use it to spite the very one who enabled us to use the gift in the first place. We may scoff at the rebellious nature of these men, but we are guilty of the same crime. Every day we use our words to tear down others by gossiping, slandering, and criticizing. In a way, we work on constructing our own tower of “babble,” with our hearts as our bricks and our tongues as our mortar. “Look how great I am,” we proclaim with every backbiting and cross word.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m enthralled with language not because it somehow shows our “evolutionary” potential to adapt to surroundings or anything like that. That would be worthless. I am amazed by language because it reveals the beauty of God’s creative mind. He desires to communicate with us, and our communication with each other is a type of that. But we’ve taken a beautiful thing and corrupted it, as we have every other blessing we’ve been entrusted with. We cannot fully handle this gift of language in our fallen state. James 3:2 says, “we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” I certainly have stumbled in what I say, and therefore am not a perfect man. I deserve God’s wrath. Thank God that even though I have sinned against Him with my words and rebelled against him in speech, my sin is forgiven because of the Cross. Because Christ, the perfect God-man who never sinned (including in speech), died as a substitute for me, I am seen by God as Christ is seen: faultless and sinless. Thank you, Lord, that I am forgiven!

I don’t totally understand everything that’s said in this video, but it has some interesting ideas in it.

  1. Karen says:

    welcome to the wonderful word of wordpress. It can be quite addictive in this wordsmith world.

    btw I love the video. Huge fan of stephen fry.

  2. Sarah says:

    Language is definitely a beautiful thing, but it is sad how we so easily turn a beautiful thing into a harmful thing. Thanks for encouraging me to use language in a way pleasing to God, particularly in a society that corrupts it.

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