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When We speak


Nearly every day I learn a new word. You’d think after all these years, most of them spent reading, stumbling across a new word would be a relatively rare event; but no. It might be age. I might simply have forgotten half the words I have learned. Let’s not go there.

Sunday’s new word was striation. I came across it in an article about a dinosaur hunt in Wyoming, USA. I didn’t know that a striation was a ridge or furrow, in geological terms, caused by glacial movements. Dragging rocks and earth, the movement of the glacier wears the surface of the earth and leaves a trace of the direction of the glacier.

As usual, the discovery of a new term meant the losing of a fair few minutes as I attempted to understand how important this was for the study of the earth, and what it had to do with dinosaur bones. Anyway, I’m still ‘researching’ that one.

A New World in my View

With the discovery of a new word, a new world opens up in front of me. I am not just content with knowing its definition, I need to find out why it is important, why I hadn’t come across it before, and ask, ‘Will I remember it the next time it comes up in a quiz programme?’

It's not just reading that brings fresh perspectives, speaking does that too. We often think or say, “I wonder why I said that?” We all have had the experience of saying something and then either apologizing for hurt caused or being thankful that we were inspired to say the right thing at the right time. Afterwards, if we reflect on our words (and actions) we learn something about ourselves and others that we didn’t previously know or, at least, acknowledge.


Despite the beliefs of some behavioural scientists, human language has shown itself unique in the animal kingdom. While its origins and structure are hotly disputed by philosophers and linguistic experts, it is clear that our ability to think, abstract, express and connect is an indication that there is more at work in the way we read, speak and understand than just adding two and two to make four or signaling to the tribe that a lion is coming.

So what?

Religion is about communication. People who believe maintain that their God or gods speak to them in some way and that they are able to respond. Our Christian faith revolves around belief in a God who speaks his word in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals who God is in his words and actions and also shows us how to respond to God’s offer of salvation. It is in human language, in all its richness and complexity, that we are able to communicate with God and that this means something.

Despite efforts by some to prove the contrary, it seems that the very nature of language itself seems to point to something beyond ourselves. Inadequate at times though it may be, language is still our connection with God, and his with us.

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