Shoot Straight; Listen Up

Greetings,

That is a strange title for an article which proposes to deal with children’s songs, but as I meditated on what I would write, I discovered that I needed to address several other, very important, and foundational concepts before hand. And it is from these that I drew the inspiration for my title.

I have been accused of superfluous obfuscation of my verbiage multitudinous times in the past, and I will undoubtedly be arraigned for that fault many more times in the future. I do not apologize for using words that are perceived as gargantuan, or words which exclusively pertain to higher vocabularies than those commonly utilized and recognized in ‘normal’ society. This article is where I intend to expain why.

Although I find it amusing how easily I can confuse people with my words, I rarely do so in malice or pride aforethought. I sincerely strive to use the words that fit the place and time that I use them in. Of course I fail in this many many times, resulting in either undue confusion, or in a perception of arrogance on my part, and for those times I apologize.

But I will not stop using big words.

Why?

Because we need them.

Each person has a certain level of vocabulary, intelect, and comprehension. These three are inextricably tied into one another: when one increases, the others increase with it, when one decreases or atrophies, the others fail with it.

This personal level determines a person’s ability to function ably in life and in society. It is therefore important as humans and as Christians, that we strive to improve ourselves in these areas. This is not so that we can show off or boast ourselves over others, but so that we can ably serve our Lord and Master in all that we do.

There is a common idea going around that promotes ‘talking below your audience’ so that they will have no problems at all understanding you. This has some application, I have no doubt, but that application is not where many people generally apply it.

People like things simple and easy.

Therefore we should make things simple and easy for them so that they will like us, right?

Sometimes.

Not all the time.

And certainly not most of the time.

If you do not use a muscle, it atrophies. If you do not use an ability, it vanishes. If you do not push harder, you will grow weaker. That is how everything works (there might be some exceptions, but I really can’t think of any at the moment). If you do not think, you will become dumb. Think about it.

If everything a person takes in is below their level that I talked about, their skills of perception and comprehension will atrophy. Their skills of outward communication deteriorate with them, and their overall level will drop. If people continue to aim below their level of comprehension, slowly, the process will repeat and continue to repeat until you have someone like the average teenager today (I will kindly refrain from a precise description of that miserable state).

This same thing occurs in maturity and in spiritual growth as well. If everyone gives you responsibility lower than your capability, your level of responsibility will decrease. If everyone constantly gives you only milk, you will never be ready for meat.

The only way for people to grow is for those who interact with them to talk and be higher than them, so that they have to work to understand, and thereby they grow and strengthen.

Therefore, for the most part, each of us should talk at our own level. Shoot straight. We need to only talk below our level when the situation demands it. We should rarely try to talk above our level, the few situations where we would need to would be when we are deliberately striving to grow in a particular area by talking to someone or about something that is higher than us.

But in those situations, you should mostly be doing the other half of my title: Listen up. Always strive to find input that is bigger and higher than you: waters you need to swim in. Hard things. That includes reading deep literature (the Bible, the Dictionary, old books, etc.), and finding and talking with mentors. Mentors are so crucial that I am planning a whole article on them.

But what in the world does any of this have to do with children’s songs??

Everything.

What is a children’s song? In the context that I am referring to in particular, a children’s song is a song about Christianity that is made to be easily understood by children. In other words, it is watered down milk, fit only for lazy people and sick people. Not made for helping anyone grow strongly. Of course, there are some β€œchildren’s songs” that are truly classic, and give strength and growth to people no matter where they are, but they are by virtue of that fact alone, not children’s songs.

What is wrong with children singing hymns? Nothing. In fact, there is much good to be got out of that.

Much.

That is how children grow. That is how they learn. That is how they understand. That is how they realize that Christianity is something that is important, and which needs to be taken as important.

But how can they understand all those archaic words??

How do they understand any words? That is how they learn! And that is how we ought to learn. If they are exposed to it, they will learn it, period. The sooner the better (learning is easier at young ages, especially when it comes to vocabulary and language).

My five year old sisters walk around the house singing constantly: singing ooooold hymns with biiiiig words in them. They might not always get them right, but they try, and they learn from them.

(By the way, if you think that this would also apply to Sunday School and Nursery: it does.)

So.

Expand your vocabulary.

Get a mentor.

Sing hymns.

Shoot straight.

Listen up.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

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29 Responses

  1. Wonderful!! Yes, I am aware that I am one of the aforementioned people who “accused [you] of superfluous obfuscation of [your] verbiage”, but I must admit that now, having known you for quite awhile, my opinion has changed considerably. πŸ™‚ Especially as I started actually looking up words I don’t know… now I understand the majority of the “big words” you use.

    And, of course, we agree completely with the hymns. In fact, last night I was singing hymns to William and Matthew as I was (attempting) to put them to sleep. πŸ™‚

    Also, when your write like this (i.e. in a friendlier, funnier tone), it doesn’t feel like your posts are that long. πŸ™‚

    -YPE

    • That is the purpose: to make you look things up. πŸ™‚

      Ah yes. We sing them while we work as well.

      Funny, this time I reverted back to my longer, more obfuscatious style, and yet with a little of the humor that has been more recently injected into my writing. Nice. πŸ™‚

  2. Right. πŸ™‚

    Yes, it is nice. I think it works well. πŸ™‚

  3. Dude, way to go! When I first found your blog I was amazed at your vocabulary. Maybe you can tell me or not, but how old are you? You talk like Eugene from AIO (and I mean that as a compliment).

    Our culture today (especially teens) has a very dumbed down vocabulary. You look at Shakespeare and how he invented a lot of words. And the puritans, if you read some of their prayers, it is very poetic.

    While I may never reached a sophisticated vocabulary (though I will try), I can certainly say it’s great if teens can expand their vocabulary greatly.

    Great post!

    • I am almost 20, but not quite. And you? Your site’s About page isn’t finished yet. πŸ™‚

      I loved Eugene, and was inspired by him, believe it or not. Though now listening to him, I see where he made some lexicological errors here and there. The same with Spence in Last Chance Detectives. (“According the the General Relativity Theory in physics, it is possible that black holes could generate gravitational waves” actually means nothing, haha.)

      Shakespeare was a wonder, but the translators of the KJV Bible were greater. They shaped the English language more than Shakespeare did. Both of those need to be read prolifically by modern teens though, as our culture is sadly lacking, as you said. Most of my vocabulary came from reading the KJV Bible, Shakespeare, old books, and dictionaries.

      Read read read. That is the best thing you can do. I can only encourage you in that endeavor. πŸ™‚

  4. Both thumbs WAY up dude! Completely magnificent et ediflicatory! Made that last one up… >_> Great post!

  5. I thought you were older than me, but I was wrong. I’m 18.

    Yeah, I’m still working on my site πŸ˜‰

    I have friends who don’t like the KJV Bible because of the language. While I agree to some extent (we don’t need to go around saying ‘can thou goest to the store for me’) but we can certainly learn from that type of language.

    I would say to definitely use a KJV for reading and use it along with an ESV for study.

    • 19 > 18 πŸ™‚

      That would be ‘Canst thou go to the store on my behalf?’ πŸ˜› Haha.

      I would say use the KJV for everything, but that is another topic for another time. πŸ˜€

  6. LOL Sure. I didn’t mean that but it sure works. πŸ˜€

  7. I meant to say ‘I thought I was older than you’. I can count, I just can’t think πŸ™‚

  8. Big words are wonderful my sesquipedalian friend! :o) Speak on!

  9. […] reason for using the KJV version is because of it’s archaic language. Sir Emeth brought up a good point recently about expanding our vocabulary, and I think we teens could use some expansion. […]

  10. “(By the way, if you think that this would also apply to Sunday School and Nursery: it does.)”

    Definitely! I need to remember that. I volunteer in the one-year-old nursery at church, and I’ve been working on “rhinoceros”. No success yet; maybe I should try something more intellectual, like “Gramercy” when I give them their cheerios.

  11. Gramercy.

  12. Great post!
    We are losing the beauty of language in the way that we “talk down” to make ourselves understood. Honestly, that makes me sad.
    I love reading old books, especially reading them aloud. I’ve learned allot of vocabulary that way and what’s more, how to say the big words that I came across.
    You’ve inspired me Jay, I am really going to make the effort to read more old books this year. There are several I’ve been meaning to read, but now I’m going to read them. πŸ™‚

    • What books do you intend to read? It is slowing down (almost dead 😦 ), but my Daunting Reading Endeavor is still there if you want to use it. πŸ™‚

  13. More C.S. Lewis, Dickens… Others are “A Time for Anger: The Myth of Neutrality”, by Frenky Schaeffer, finish Beowulf… there are some books that my dad really thinks I should read… and others that are sitting gathering dust on our book shelves.

    I saw the Daunting Reading Endeavor and was thinking about doing it this summer. Thanks for reminding me. πŸ™‚

    • P.S. Though I think my mom and dad my have a “Daunting Reading Endeavor” book list for me to read this summer already. πŸ˜‰

    • Those are good. Go for it. Read the ones that your parents want you to read: that is the best thing you can do. They know, and many times the reason is that they wish they had read them at your age.

      The Daunting Reading Endeavor is simply an encouraging way to keep track of your reading to help you get going. You can read any daunting book you want. πŸ™‚

  14. Jay, you are quite right. And, while my vocabulary may not be quite as expansive as you own, I take care to never make an improper usage. (In fact, I take care that other people do not make improper usage.)

    In fact, I generally consider English to be divided into two divisions: High English, and Low English. (Slang not included: It’s Gangster, not English πŸ˜‰ )

    High English is actually the proper form of English, which you (and sometimes I) speak. Low English is English for those who do not desire to attain a proper understanding of grammar, or to expand their own vocabulary.

    • That sounds like an apt distinguisher. Though I would add Classical English to the list, as what the KJV and Shakespeare used when the English language was at its height. It has done nothing but deteriorate since then, and the more we use true Classical English, even in fun, the more High English will last and survive and bloom.

  15. I agree! Most children’s worship songs don’t really teach anything. Besides, how can we expect them (or ourselves!) to learn if they (or we!) are never challenged? I have a couple funny stories from when I was little and I tried to sing hymns. πŸ™‚

    Expand your vocabulary: I started reading the dictionary! πŸ™‚ I’ve always been interested in word origins, but that’s been put to the side for several years now.

    Get a mentor: My mentor has been SUCH a blessing to me! To add what you said, I would also say that if you are in the place in your walk where you can, be a mentor too. There is SO much growth potential there for both you and the person you mentor!

    Daunting Reading Endeavor: I’m considering doing it this summer. I read many of George MacDonald’s novels in the past, but I want to do so again. I think my favourite is The Shepherd’s Castle.

    • Congratulations! Dictionaries are awesome books. I would seriously suggest the 1828 Websters though, as it is the best one out there. It is biblical.

      Mentors are crucial. I have been very blessed by many different mentors at different times, but my father is the best.

      Make suuure you get the unabridged! They are the best.

  16. Ah, thou art very correct Sire. For I remember when I was but a child still, and how I detested the songs they would sing to us in Sunday School, however I would most certainly sing the hymns. If I did not know a large word in the hymns I would make it up, simply giving my best guess as to what it sounded like.

    I do believe The Donut Man was onto something when he used “adult” songs for children in worship. Yes, they did have some fun songs that were not exactly what you would sing in a normal church service, but even those were written from scripture and aren’t all that watered down. (i.e. It’s an earthquake; Roar, roar, roar; The Pearl; etc.)

    • Agreed. I remember a friend of mine telling me that when he was little, he would get confused by the song “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” He always thought it said “the roll is called a pyonder.” And he could never figure out what a pyonder was. πŸ™‚ I don’t think that is a bad thing: that is how children learn about everything anyways. They can’t find out what is right if they don’t get it wrong first (at least most of the time).

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