It seems that everything is “ownage” lately, according to our resident high schooler. Obviously, “ownage” is the latest buzz word; not so obvious, was what it meant! Upon questioning our teen, I gathered that it means to own something, as in to be triumphant and victorious. Sometimes I feel like my son speaks a completely different language!
Different words mean different things in different circles … a classic example is when a young person says that something is “filth” to say that it is really good!
It was also brought home to me in a new way when a workmate commented recently, “Why do church groups – especially youth groups - always seem to have a name that’s about FIRE? That just seems so weird - it makes me think of hellfire and brimstone! Why would they want to name their groups after THAT!”. So I explained to her that in the Bible, the Holy Spirit’s presence is often compared to a fire or flame – hence the number of Christian groups with fiery names.
Having been a Christian for nearly thirty years, her comment was a real eye-opener to me. I’ve heard that Christians speak a lot of jargon, almost like a different language, that is meaningless to people who are not in the Church. But this was probably the first time I really understood.
It made me think about some of the phrases and buzz words that I use regularly. Do I communicate effectively, or is it just double-dutch to others?
To make things even trickier, our language is constantly changing. Sometimes new words are invented, such as “ownage”! But this is not a modern phenomenon - did you know that William Shakespeare alone, is said to be responsible for hundreds of words now in common usage? Here’s just a few: amazement; courtship; dwindle; excitement; frugal; gossip; champion; summit; worthless; zany; rant; madcap; laughable; greeneyed; impartial; eyeball; disconnect; moonbeam; hint; hobnob; blushing; gloomy.
Language is a living thing … which means that it can die. Years ago, Latin was the language of choice - it was used by the learned, the upper class who were fortunate enough to be educated, for formal occasions and important documents such as the Magna Carta, and in Church.
However, today Latin is considered to be a “dead language”. No peoples on the earth claim Latin as their native tongue and you will only find it in historical documents. In the classroom, students are more likely to study Japanese or French than Latin. For 99% of folk, if you were to hear Latin spoken, it would mean nothing to you.
In Romans 6, Paul tells us that SIN is a “dead language” to those who have placed their trust in Christ. It doesn't mean anything to us anymore – it just doesn’t make sense! Instead, it is the Word of God which comes alive, thanks to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us!
Perhaps by now all this talk about language has you throwing up your hands in despair, saying, “It’s all Greek to me!” … which is actually another phrase credited to our friend, William Shakespeare!