The Guardian: 8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today

We’ve all been there. I still lapse into mis-CHEE-vous if I’m not concentrating. This week some PR whizzes working for a railway station with an unusual name unveiled the results of a survey into frequently garbled words. The station itself is routinely confused with an endocrine gland about the size of a carrot (you can see why they hired PRs). Researchers also found that 340 of the 1000 surveyed said ex-cetera instead of etcetera, while 260 ordered ex-pressos instead of espressos. Prescription came out as perscription or proscription 20% of the time.

The point is malapropisms and mispronunciations are fairly common. The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary lists 171,476 words as being in common use. But the average person’s vocabulary is tens of thousands smaller, and the number of words they use every day smaller still. There are bound to be things we’ve read or are vaguely familiar with, but not able to pronounce as we are supposed to.

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Richard Branson, that well-known anti-business, pale pink, hair-shirted communist, has told climate change deniers: “Get out of the way”

Conservative think tank the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) - Apple shareholders - criticised Cook for pursuing sustainability programs, questioned the impact of combating climate change on the bottom line, and demanded return on investment on all environmental initiatives.

Tim took a crucial stand: he told shareholders who oppose Apple’s commitment to sustainability to “get out of the stock”.

He also commented on how doing business sustainably can actually improve the bottom line. This is something we strongly believe in at The B Team, which is working hard to encourage better ways of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet. We wholeheartedly support him. …

More businesses should be following Apple’s stance in encouraging more investment in sustainability. While Tim told sustainability sceptics to “get out of our stock”, I would urge climate change deniers to get out of our way.


Dare to sit with suffering

by Richard on March 10, 2014

A Lenten thought from

The season of Lent calls us to give up something as a way of making room for Christ to enter our lives. As we look to the cross, we are asked to remember suffering, to sit with it, to experience it, to not ignore it, as we are so prone to do. This year as you remember the suffering of Christ, remember also the suffering of creation. As you draw near to the cross, sit with stories from Syria, or from the Ukraine. Listen to stories of economic refugees in the U.S. who have lost their houses due to foreclosure or who work minimum wage jobs but still cannot afford to feed their families.

Whatever you do, don’t turn away. Dare yourself to sit with suffering. Look for God there. God is always close to broken bodies and bruised dreams. And as you sit with this suffering, ask yourself what you might do to dig up the roots of injustice and rebuild the kin-dom of God in our midst. For this is the call of the cross. This is the gift of God with us.


Sound of Silence

by Richard on March 10, 2014


Hymn of the day

by Richard on March 9, 2014

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart


Lent Photos

by Richard on March 8, 2014

If you’re looking for a creative challenge this Lent, Rev Mark invites you to join a daily photo challenge for Lent 2014. Tweet or post your pics to Instagram with the hashtag #Lentphotos (what else?). There’s a daily list of themes — I’m sure it’s OK to join part way through.


Racism in action

by Richard on March 7, 2014

Two fellows, one black one white, try to break in to a car. Let’s see if they get treated the same way…

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Ben Myers has been having a week focused on the parables of Jesus. The series includes a number of sermons by one Kim Fabricius. I draw your particular attention in particular to The Parable of the Sower

What is our condition? It is not good: rocky soil, weeds, pests. The church is in decline. What should be our response? Hard work? Well, sure, work is good. But things can only get better? No, things are looking to get a lot worse. But here’s a quaint idea: God! In the URC – and I suspect in the Methodist Church too – there are those who think that only a cunning plan will save us: better management and more assessments; a new programme with a catchy advertising campaign; cutting-edge entrepreneurialism; state-of-the-art technology; and so on. And some of these ideas may indeed be worth trying. But none of them is going to save the church. And to think otherwise is not only faithless, it is quite idolatrous, trusting that the deities of effort, or ideas, or techniques will kick-start mission – by which is usually meant getting more people in the pews and on the books.

Me… I actually think… if you take my meaning… that we need fewer Christians and more disciples. Followers of the Jesus who says that following him will not make you balanced, liked, successful, or safe, no, it will put you on a collision course with the world and cause you a lot of trouble and grief. Followers of the Jesus who says you can’t worship both me and Mammon (otherwise known as the Market), can’t worship both me and Venus (otherwise known as Health and Beauty), can’t worship both me and Mars (otherwise known as the War on Terror).

Frankly, at the moment, I think the soil of the church is too culturally contaminated to grow anything much good at all. But I also think that “a church that is shrinking in membership may actually be a church in which the soil of the gospel is being prepared in which deeper roots are possible”


Rowan Williams: Lent reflection

by Richard on March 6, 2014

This video is a few years old, but Rowan Williams is always worth attending to.


From The Guardian

The International Monetary Fund has backed economists who argue that inequality is a drag on growth in a discussion paper that has also dismissed rightwing theories that efforts to redistribute incomes are self-defeating.

The Washington-based organisation, which advises governments on sustainable growth, said countries with high levels of inequality suffered lower growth than nations that distributed incomes more evenly.

Backing analysis by the Keynesian economist and Nobel prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz, it warned that inequality can also make growth more volatile and create the unstable conditions for a sudden slowdown in GDP growth.

And in what is likely to be viewed as its most controversial conclusion, the IMF said analysis of various efforts to redistribute incomes showed they had a neutral effect on GDP growth. This last point is expected to dismay rightwing politicians who argue that overcoming inequality robs the rich of incentives to invest and the poor of incentives to work and is counter-productive.


George Herbert: Sinnes round

by Richard on March 6, 2014

Sorrie I am, my God, sorrie I am,
That my offences course it in a ring.
My thoughts are working like a busie flame,
Untill their cockatrice they hatch and bring;
And when they once have perfected their draughts,
My words take fire from my inflamed thoughts.

My words take fire from my inflamed thoughts,
Which spit it forth like the Sicilian Hill.
They vent the wares, and passe them with their faults,
And by their breathing ventilate the ill.
But words suffice not, where are lewd intentions:
My hands do joyn to finish the inventions.

My hands do joyn to finish the inventions:
And so my sinnes ascend three stories high,
As Babel grew, before there were dissensions.
Yet ill deeds loyter not: for they supplie
New thoughts of sinning: wherefore, to my shame,
Sorrie I am, my God, sorrie I am.


More Ash Wednesday reflections

by Richard on March 5, 2014

Pete Brazier offers some helpful thoughts

In the lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday,[1] from Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 we hear about the need for penitence, the need to return to God with weeping and mourning - this is at the heart of what Ash Wednesday is about. And in Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 we hear about how penitent people ought to act in the world, acts of religion that are out of the public eye, giving that is not announced, humble prayer, fasting without seeking attention or sympathy and the desire to store up heavenly wealth, not earthly possessions. That extract from the sermon on the mount offers us perhaps a picture of the finished product, the holy people we seek to become. But there is a stage in between Joel and Matthew, there is a time between our repentance and our stepping out into the world again as new creations. The reading from Matthew’s gospel is suggesting that we don’t make a fuss, we don’t get wrapped up in religious pomp and circumstance, but rather we get on with doing the work of the lord, we get on with the work of being God’s people. But there are some things we need to attend to before we can be those people. The way we group these two readings together in the lectionary for this service is very protestant, it’s very modern and western. We repent, we are forgiven, we get up and get on with the work. But in between there are things that we are called to do.

Read the rest…


Why English majors make bad fundamentalists

by Richard on March 5, 2014

Morgan Guyton: Why English majors make lousy fundamentalists. Good stuff when you get past the Myers-Briggs introduction. Here’s a flavour:

To an English major, what makes a piece of writing rich and poetic are the metaphors it employs. Metaphors are scary things to fundamentalists because they seem like a ploy to undermine the Bible’s authority. To make Genesis 1 literal isn’t just a problem for me because of its contradiction of modern science. It’s a problem because there are so many cool things that the firmament, the waters above, and waters below could stand for metaphorically if they don’t have to be literal scientific facts (take a look at what Augustine does with them in his books 11-13 of his Confessions). When the Bible is “nothing but the facts,” then it’s been robbed of a critically important layer of its beauty. The early church fathers had a very different interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16 than we do today. When they read that “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching,” they took that to mean that every detail was pregnant with metaphorical content; nothing was mere historical backdrop. For example, Augustine interpreted the six jars of water that Jesus turned into wine in John 2:6 as the six ages of the world.

4) We make analogies

This overlaps somewhat with #3. When you’re an English major, you’re always making analogies between different books that you’ve read. For instance, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov is about the three brothers Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha, while Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina likewise includes three brothers Konstantin, Nicolai, and Sergius. So every time I read a story about three siblings, I always have these two great Russian novels in the back of my mind. In reading the Bible, I instinctively look for elements that might be analogies. In the New Testament, there are three major controversies that become important analogies for me in Biblical interpretation: Jesus’ Sabbath healing, the circumcision of the Gentiles, and eating ceremonially unclean foods. For fundamentalist Bible readers, these controversies are isolated incidents that have no bearing on how the church should handle analogous problems today. But an English major like me is going to draw an analogy between how these three issues were handled by Jesus and Paul and how the church should handle issues today including today’s controversy of all controversies, which I’m sure I don’t have to name.


Lenten leanings

by Richard on March 5, 2014

My friend Ivan Corbin has a new blog. His most recent post, Fat Tuesday and Lenten Leanings, invites us to journey through Lent with him. Wouldn’t miss it!


‘Dust thou art…’

by Richard on March 5, 2014

Posted in memory of Angela Shier Jones, from her blog The Kneeler.

God’s Dust
by Angela Shier Jones

Good morning God,
I cant help feeling that the traditional Ash Wednesday refrain ought to be more poignant this year - ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’, but it isn’t. No matter how hard I try to be dutifully penitent and conscious of my mortal existence - the whole idea of Ash Wednesday simply provokes the same abhorrence it always has at the way in which we humans have taken what you have called Good and twisted it in a vain attempt to make it small, dirty and less than it is.

Yes.. I remember that I am dust - and I celebrate the distinction. For when you created the heavens and the earth you spoke everything - except humanity into existence. Humanity was not spoken into being out of nothing, but was carefully, deliberately formed by you from what you had already made, examined and called GOOD. Humanity alone was held in your hands and given the kiss of life from you.. remember you are dust - Alleluia!

And to dust you will return.. Amen!
To know that I will return to your hands, to my most divinely created form, is, for me, still further cause for delight - especially in the light of the good news that you love all that you have made, that you have made nothing in vain and that life, like your love, is everlasting.

You see, its no good. I just cannot bring myself to buy into the human priestly cult of sin and death which has all but replaced the gospel you gave us of love and life.
Yes, humans sin - but we are also so much more than the sum of our sins, for YOU made us and breathed YOUR life into us. Yes, human bodies die - but we are so much more than the three-score years and ten (or less!) that we wear these mortal robes and which some mistakenly think define us. In Christ we live forever for your breath cannot be taken from us, we are as YOU have made us.

And the good news continues in that even before we were sinners, even before we who live now were formed in your image, you chose to give us life and to set us free (if we wish it) from all that diminishes us and makes us less than you desire us to be. You know our nature better than we, and you choose life for us. In Christ you proved beyond doubt or dispute that no matter what we think sin can do, no matter how powerful we make it, it cannot destroy the life you give; we can murder it, even bury it, but even then you can still resurrect it. Sin is just so much smaller than salvation - always was.

Which doesn’t mean that I enter Lent without regret, or without the need to repent - it just means that I prefer to perform my penance in the way that you suggested (according to Matthew 6) - in private.

So please, help me God to walk with you this Lent without sackcloth and ashes, not demeaning or dumbing down the journey that Christ took to the Cross, but nonetheless not losing sight of the joyous anticipation of the final victory the world so desperately needs over the cult of sin and death.


Ash Wednesday

by Richard on March 5, 2014

Lent is here. It’s a long season, all the way from Ash Wednesday to Easter that does not exactly inspire many modern day Christians. In this fast moving world, we lack the patience for a season of such length. We prefer the one day beano, like Christmas, Easter, or (at a pinch) Pentecost. Sometimes we might actually stretch it out to a three day holiday weekend, but an observance lasting forty days and forty nights, like Lent, is almost beyond imagining.

Giving up chocolate, or some other pleasure, is the focus of Lent for many - 40 days of misery so that we can feel jolly at Easter. There are 2 problems with this. The first is that at Easter we ought to be celebrating much more than the end of a long period of self-imposed privation. Second, it misses the essential point that Lent is principally about reflection and repentance.

To repent means to change direction, to alter course, to change one’s mind. The conventional understanding involves drawing up a list of ones foibles and sins…then, trying to cross those sins off the list one by one. Yes, I’ll surely try to give up smoking; I’ll try to lose weight; I’ll try to be more concerned about the hungry and the homeless; I’ll go to church every Sunday; I’ll even try harder to be merciful to my least favourite people. The problem is, we usually find, after an effort at moral reform, that the sins come back all the more healthy than ever: lots of chocolate cake and ice cream, deep resentment about the flaws of certain people, terrific self-indulgence. That’s the problem with the moralistic approach to repentance. If we approach this season with the idea of routing out all that is evil in our lives, pumping ourselves up to a pitch of virtue and good will, we’re likely to find that the bubble of our virtue bursts soon after the season of our reform has past, and the vices come back on with a vengeance.

Instead of approaching Lent from a moralistic perspective, we should perhaps reflect upon the true meaning of repentance. This is the season for exploring the mysteries, a time for looking beneath the surface and examining our own motives and desires, asking ourselves where we are headed. What in the world makes us tick? Where does our real commitment lie? If we are brave enough, this can be a time for pushing beyond the conventional wisdom, for re-examining traditional understandings and finding fresh new perspectives on our faith. Rather than trying to “pick off” individual sins, true repentance is about orientating the whole of our life together - individual, church and society - in a God-ward direction, seeking the mind of Christ who “did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil 2:6,7). So repentance is not about self-improvement, still less is it self-indulgent.

True repentance directs us to the needs of others as surely as a compass needle is drawn to point north and is more about joy than misery.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on March 2, 2014

God of all power, and truth, and grace,
Which shall from age to age endure,
Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
Remains and stands for ever sure;

That I thy mercy may proclaim,
That all mankind thy truth may see,
Hallow thy great and glorious name,
And perfect holiness in me.

Thy sanctifying Spirit pour,
To quench my thirst, and make me clean;
Now, Father, let the gracious shower
Descend, and make me pure from sin.

Purge me from every sinful blot;
My idols all be cast aside;
Cleanse me from every sinful thought,
From all the filth of self and pride.

Give me a new, a perfect heart,
From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
The mind which was in Christ impart,
And let my spirit cleave to thee.

O take this heart of stone away!
Thy sway it doth not, cannot own;
In me no longer let it stay,
O take away this heart of stone!

O that I now, from sin released,
Thy word may to the utmost prove,
Enter into the promised rest,
The Canaan of thy perfect love!

Now let me gain perfection’s height,
Now let me in to nothing fall,
Be less than nothing in thy sight,
And feel that Christ is all in all.

Charles Wesley


JCs square up: Clarkson and Jesus

by Richard on February 24, 2014

It should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of Jeremy Clarkson. By no means a fan. When I read his latest idiocy, I was appalled but not surprised.

The Bible is basically a blueprint for Marxism. In Luke 16:19-31 we are told that those who work hard and buy nice things for themselves and their families will burn for all of eternity in hell. And those who sit about doing nothing all day will go to heaven.

I certainly don’t want the country to be run by someone who believes in that codswallop. Or who believes that the meek will inherit the earth. Or that it’s wrong to covet your neighbour’s BMW

I hate to admit it but, despite his hostility and setting aside his woeful eisegesis, it seems to me that Clarkson is essentially right: You can’t come away from encountering Jesus and be content with the economic system we’ve built for ourselves. In the end, we’re going to have to choose between them.

But I think that the original JC said that long before Clarkson.


Auden encore: “The More Loving One”

by Kim on February 24, 2014

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were the stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all the stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on February 23, 2014

GREAT is our redeeming Lord,
In power, and truth, and grace
Him, by highest heaven adored,
His church on earth doth praise:
In the city of our God,
In his holy mount below,
Publish, spread his name abroad,
And all his greatness show.

For thy loving-kindness, Lord,
We in thy temple stay;
Here thy faithful love record,
Thy saving power display:
With thy name thy praise is known,
Glorious thy perfections shine;
Earth’s remotest bounds shall own
Thy works are all divine.

See the gospel church secure,
And founded on a rock;
All her promises are sure;
Her bulwarks who can shock?
Count her every precious shrine;
Tell, to after-ages tell,
Fortified by power divine,
The church can never fail.

Zion’s God is all our own,
Who on his love rely;
We his pardoning love have known,
And live to Christ, and die:
To the new Jerusalem
He our faithful guide shall be:
Him we claim, and rest in him,
Through all eternity.

Charles Wesley