By Sharon Kirk Clifton
Author of Up a Rutted Road, released May 2013
I just closed the book I am reading to come write this article.
The author is one I’ve read before and liked. I’ve even heard her speak in person. She’s a well-known ACFW member and author of a prodigious number of books—both fiction and non-fiction. Most of her works are published with CBA houses, including the one I’m reading. She appears to be in her forties or early fifties. I surmise that her critique partners and editors are under fifty-five.
“What has age to do with it?” you might ask. Perhaps a lot. It might explain some naïveté among younger writers.
It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to realize that slang words and phrases such as gosh, golly, jeez (or geez), cripes, judas priest, and the like are actually euphemisms for God, Jesus, Christ, and Jesus Christ, and are therefore as profane as using the actual names of deity loosely and without reverence—in vain. Other words are fairly obvious: heck, shoot, darn, tarnation (a form of damnation), for example.
Then there are the words that have insinuated themselves into common usage, even among Christians, including the one that prompted this piece. Here’s where age comes into play. I’m over fifty-five; I remember the original words and their meaning. The enemy has done an excellent job of disguising some of that language—drop a letter here, change a letter there, you get the idea—so that people either really don’t know what they’re saying, have forgotten, or don’t give a flying fig. (Did you catch that? Insidious, isn’t it?)
The word that sent me off to write this is ragging. If you’re about my age, you may be blushing now because you remember its original usage. Today it means nagging, giving a hard time, being downright hateful. As a woman with PMS might be? It was meant to be insulting, crass, and vulgar. Do I think for one minute this godly author would have used that word had she known what she was saying? Absolutely not! Further, it was the Christian main character who said it. Ms. Writerly simply didn’t know.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, any slang word beginning with the letter “f” –I needn't list them—probably is a euphemism for the great-great-granddaddy of “f” words. Do you really want that in your manuscript? (Side note: when a student would use that ancient word in my English classroom, I assigned them to do a thorough etymological study. That deflated their sails quickly.)
My advice to writers is this: If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit indwelling. Listen to Him. Listen for that still, small voice. He’s really good at waving red flags. Pay heed to those, and “if in doubt, CHECK IT OUT!”
Urbandictionary.com is a good source, though I don’t recommend it as recreational reading, since it has plenty of extremely offensive content by nature of its purpose.Also, like Wikipedia, it's written by its readers.
Our words matter, and they have power. The Bible tells me so. With the help and discernment of the Holy Spirit, let's watch our language. For the Lord's sake.
“. . . keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings . . .”
~1 Timothy 6:20
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” ~Psalm 19:14
Because of Christ,