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Our wonderful language

Rich Mayfield

Words, words, words.

If you’re anything like me, you are fascinated with those combinations of letters that allow for communication. They allow for much else, as well. Despite the old playground chorus, words can hurt. They can also reach deep within our souls and allow our spirits to sing. They can convince whole nations to go to war and they can persuade one person to say, “I do.” Words shape our world and so it is fun to find new words to speak our minds or discover old words we never knew.

n Antidisestablishmentarianism: This old favorite from fourth-grade has reappeared this week in the election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Rowan Williams is a Welshman who as Bishop of Wales has probably found occasion to utilize this longest of English words in recent days. The Archbishop of Canterbury presides over the 70 million Anglicans who make up such denominations as The Church of England and the Episcopal Church in America. Antidisestablishmentarianism comes into play particularly with the Church of England which has as its official head the Queen. This marks the church as “established,” i.e. of the established government. There are many good folk within Anglicanism and especially the Church of England who find such a relationship both archaic and stifling. Where our Founding Fathers were quick to recognize the importance of separating church and state, Henry VIII thought just the opposite. Bishop Williams has been wondering aloud for many years now if it wouldn’t be better to make the break sooner rather than later. Some are worried that the new archbishop will disestablish the church. The movement that has arisen against this suggestion of disestablishing is called, logically enough albeit rather lengthily: antidisestablishmentarianism.

Isn’t this fun?

– Apocalypticism: This one won’t even make it past your spell-checker but for millions of folk this is the be-all and end all of words. It refers to that system of belief that has folk convinced that the world is coming to an end and soon. More than that, apocalypticism generally involves pretty particular descriptions of just how that ending will come to be. Right now the No. 1 seller on the New York Times Bestseller List is an apocalyptic tome entitled, “The Remnant.” It is part of an extensive series of similarly successful books that go into great detail over the sufferings of all those who don’t believe the way the authors believe. It is, I won’t hesitate to remind you, on the bestseller list for fiction.

Shall we try a couple more?

– Arrogate:. This is not to be confused with arrogant or abrogate although, come to think of it, both could be used here. One arrogates when one claims something unduly, as in arrogating authority, as in a president arrogantly arrogating the power to declare war on another country without the consent of congress. Unless the Constitution has secretly been abrogated, GW had better not arrogate or he may find himself in an Iraqigate.

– Asteroid: I know this one isn’t new, but according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of these babies large enough to wreak worldwide destruction will cross earth’s path sometime in 2019. The odds are slim, less than one in 200,000, but if you are at all prone to arrogate reason you might just find such news apocalyptic.

I know I should have worked antidisestablishmentarianism into that last sentence but I’m not so arrogant to think I could abrogate the rules of syntax.

Now there’s a word!

Rich Mayfield is pastor of the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church and a regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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