I am an occasional watcher of Gardeners’ World, occasional not because the tv isn’t switched on, but because I find that Monty Don’s voice very successfully sends me to sleep – if he made relaxation tapes the insomniacs of the world would snap them up! But when I do stay awake long enough to find out what my sister may be inspired to do next in the garden, I am often confused by the names of the plants. The presenter will be extolling the virtues of Digitalis purpurea and I’m thinking ‘wow that sounds exotic’, and then the camera pans to show the plant in question and then it’s ‘oh, it’s a foxglove!’. I don’t know why they have started using the scientific name for all the plants rather than the common name, but as an inexperienced and not very knowledgeable gardener I find it mystifying and a little intimidating.
But it did get me thinking about words and names, why we use them, and what they mean.
Driving home from work the other day we were looking at the sheep in the fields and it got me wondering why we have a herd of cows, but a flock of sheep, and not a flock of sheeps! Why is it a cow in the field, but beef at the table? Well, the former goes back to Old English, and the latter goes all the way back to the Norman Conquest, when the lower classes, the native Anglo-Saxon farmers, were responsible for the day-to-day work of raising the livestock, the cows and the pigs, which would then be gastronomically transformed to grace the table of the wealthy Norman lords who brought with them the French words for the cooked meat – so cow became beef, and pig became pork.
Then I began to think about the English language in general. I am always humbled by those who can learn a second language, because despite years of trying at school, and since, I cannot get to grips with French, or German, and have had to admit defeat, I just don’t have an ear for languages. But my greatest admiration goes to all those who learn English as their second language, because it isn’t easy and even native speakers get tripped up by our different spellings and pronunciations. Locally we have Bosham and Cosham, in looking at them they should be pronounced the same but they aren’t, and don’t even get me started on the differences between there, their, and they’re!
We then have the words that have changed in meaning over time. In the Book of Common Prayer, we pray that all in authority will ‘truly and indifferently minister justice’ but I, and many of my clergy colleagues, change it to say ‘truly and impartially’, because in 1662 that is what indifferently meant, to be fair, to be impartial, to treat everyone the same, with no difference between rich or poor, man or woman, but to 21st century ears indifferently means to be disinterested, to not care, and I want those in authority to care, to be interested.
Names and words can have so many different meanings, and can be meant one way by the person saying it, but understood a different way by the person hearing it. Even worse is an email or a text, or a Facebook or twitter post, which without the benefit of hearing how something is said, in jest with a smile, or in anger with a frown, can lead to confusion and sometimes real hurt. I was once advised that I should think once before saying something, think twice before writing something, and think three times before posting something on social media – and it is good advice that I, mostly, stick to.
The bible is not immune to the misunderstandings of language, or to personal interpretation. St Paul is a great one for being misunderstood or misused. In many of his Epistle’s, or letters, he can come across as misogynistic and controlling, but he is responding to particular situations in particular communities, and we don’t have the other half of the correspondence to inform our understanding. But every so often we get to know the real Paul, and we get the real message he is sending to the Christian communities he is serving and supporting, and to us. In his letter to the Galatians (3:28) he has a simple but important lesson for the diverse community of faith there, and for the generations who were to follow, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ There is no one better than anyone else, no one more important than anyone else, in the sight of God, and in the love of God.
This Sunday in our Gospel reading we will hear once again of The New Commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples, and to us, Love one another as I have loved you. It was only a few weeks ago that I reflected on what it is to love and serve, to follow the New Commandment, but as we all watch the events in Ukraine, and in the other war zones around the world, it is a message we all need to hear, that we are loved, and a message we all need to take to heart in how we treat others, to love them as Jesus loved us. There is no confusion in what Jesus says, no possibility of misunderstanding, there can be no question as to what the message, what the promise is, of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus loved, loves, everyone, equally, impartially, and offers that love to all. All we have to do is do the same.
Rev Sarah Manouch
07468 854864 firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that I am part-time. My principal working days are Friday and Saturday as well as Sunday. I am not available on a Thursday.
The APCM for the Valley Parish took place on Wednesday 11th May, and a copy of the Vicar’s report on the activities of the parish over the past year, together with details of the future challenges can be found in Parish News.