Less Spigot

For every top-level preacher who speaks Ecclesian in the pulpit there are three score and ten parishioners whose speech problem is at the other end of the scale. Great swelling words are not their difficulty. They can’t manage any words at all. They are the manly mumblers.

Manly mumbling is a male malady. There are two varieties. The first is the muscular mumble, in which words are extruded under pressure between teeth clamped together by clenched masseter muscles. The tense belligerence which this conveys is accentuated by rippling these muscles occasionally, as though one were chewing on horsehide, or had his dentures fast in a caramel. The second mumble achieves a similar effect through opposite means. It is the drool mumble. The jaw is relaxed, and the lips have barely enough tension to contain saliva. Extreme ennui is indicated; this mumbler could care less, and does.

Both varieties are conscientiously developed in the middle or late teens to prove the mumbler’s masculinity in conformity to the tribal mores. Both add striking new confusions to our language.

I was fascinated to hear a student song leader ask a group, “The zany won half a fable-lit sung?” Someone did, and they sang what sounded like, “Freeze a jelly goof hello.” I met the young man later. When I was introduced he mumbled “Police tomato,” and moved away.

That sort of thing could lead to misunderstanding. Before tackling semantics and psychology in the communication of the Gospel we need to begin with peppermints and consonants. In the great assembly of Israel described in Nehemiah, Ezra the scribe and his colleagues “read in the book, in the law of God distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading.” Clear thinking and ...

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