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Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Time Event
11:20a
Words, words, words
I grew up speaking Standard English as my native dialect. And I grew up reading all kinds of old-fashioned stories and history books, some full of archaisms, and some just archaic. I was a wordy kid, God wot.

The upshot of this is that I had to learn how to talk like everybody else talks. Not just small talk (though that, too, is an acquired skill). I had to learn to drop gees and say "ain't," use slang and insert just a hint of a drawl in my speech. If I hadn't, my parishioners would never have accepted what I was saying; as it is, I have put the wind up a lot of people who are intimidated by well-spoken folk like me.

So, I have practiced putting people at their ease. But it doesn't work when I'm tired. When I'm really tired, I don't get sloppy like most folks: I get hyper-articulate, because that's who I really am.

In 1993, I was a Sub-camp Chaplain at the National Scout Jamboree. It was late in the week, and I had been subsisting for too many days on too little sleep. It was my turn to say grace at breakfast. Relying on long habit to get through a prayer without really engaging my brain, I closed my eyes and addressed myself unto the Lord.

After a clause or so, however, I became aware that I had two completely different grammatical entities going. I had begun one sentence, and somehow switched to another thought before finishing my first one. In at attempt to make it come out right, I tied the two clauses of my petition together by ending the sentence with therewith, one of those nice, reflexive words which take this thought and join it to the preceding one. I was relieved. My prayer was convoluted, but grammatical. I said, "Amen," and opened my bleary eyes. The entire staff was staring at me in disbelief.

Finally, the Sub-camp Director said, "Nice therewith, Art."

And we all went in to breakfast.

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