lake superior state university (greetings from michigan, sufjan!) publishes a list of banished words every year. officially, it’s the list of words and phrases banished from the queen’s english for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness. past winner (losers?) include: metrosexual, chad, first-time caller and holiday tree.

this year, i’m casting my vote for “make no mistake”. if i could also outlaw the look that goes with it (you know – squinting your eyes to affect steeliness) i would. it’s one of those strange rhetorical devices that i’m guessing is supposed to imply toughness but is just plain confusing. if you’ve already spent twenty minutes trying to convince me of something, would i really make the mistake of thinking you’re going to change your position in the next sentence?

another verbal pet peeve: asking a question and then immediately answering it. imagine: “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? eight hundred seventy three! that’s how many.” wouldn’t it save some word mileage to simply say, “it takes eight hundred seventy three licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop”? actually, i think this one bothers me because a pastor i knew from the east coast would use this technique at least three or four times per sermon. which segues into part two of my lil’ rant….

i think pastors should not be allowed to preach a single sermon that is longer than twenty-five minutes. i think there should be an agreement with the congregation: after a predetermined period of time has elapsed, the congregation can begin waving the preacher off the stage, as they do on showtime at the apollo (like this). if that doesn’t work, then savion glover will unceremoniously tapdance you out of the pulpit. lest you think i’m being too harsh, i would apply the same agreement to myself (as i find myself preaching most sundays).

and, just to toss out a couple of parting shots, i think revealing the number of points you’re about to make at the outset of the message should be likewise banished. this never fails to trigger the countdown in my mind… only two more points and three sub-points to go!

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the things that get under our skin are so strange. i had a friend in college whose nervous habit was to tap his fingers across his laptop keyboard without actually applying enough force to make the character appear onscreen. come midterms, you could hear the faint tappity-tap-tap echoing stressed-out strains from his room…

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