Archive for June 2017

Personally   Leave a comment

Or, Why We Should Strive Not to Label Obviously Subjective Statements Unnecessarily

I admit readily that many others are better English-language stylists than I, but I strive to be as skilled and elegant a stylist as possible.  I also encourage others to improve the quality of their speaking and writing, for I apply one standard to them and to myself.  If one is a literate human being, one will hopefully speak and write as well as possible.  Reality frequently dashes my hope, unfortunately.

Whenever I hear or read “in my personal opinion,” “personally, I,” and other needless uses of “personal” and “personally,” I object, at least to myself.  Related to that issue is “in my opinion” when a statement, even in the absence of that qualifier, is obviously subjective.  With regard to “my personal opinion,” of course my opinion is personal.  What else would it be?  The use of the first person indicates the personal.

The interpersonal reason for using redundant qualifiers in obviously subjective statements is to practice diplomacy with regard to people who object to the subjective content.  You, O reader, might know the experience of receiving the


reaction.  I do.  The essence of my measured reply is

Of course it is my opinion, for it is obviously a subjective statement.

That does not soothe ruffled feathers much of the time, of course.  I know from experience that responding calmly to someone who is irrational (A) demonstrates maturity and self-control and (B) makes the other person angrier.  Someone has to model good behavior, however.  My simple question about people with such objections is:  Since they take offense to easily, why would anyone want to engage them in conversation unnecessarily?  I prefer to speak and correspond with calm people.

Shall we listen to each other, notice that certain statements are obviously subjective, and strive to avoid redundant words?



Posted June 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Language

Tagged with

Impact   Leave a comment

Or, Why We Should Influence and Affect Instead

I take the English language seriously.  When I see a

10 Items of Less

sign in a store, for example, I struggle to resist the temptation to comment that the sign should read

10 Items or Fewer.

Sometimes I choose not to resist the temptation.  I object to confusing “further” and “farther.”  It is not outside my experience to erupt into profanities in private while reading students’ writing in which they have used “it’s” (the contraction of “it is”) in lieu of “its” (a singular possessive pronoun).  I roll my eyes when I hear people say “very unique” of “most unique,” for degrees of uniqueness do not exist.  (For that matter, no woman is ever “very pregnant,” for degrees of pregnancy do not exist either.)  I understand the distinction between the subjective and objective cases well enough to realize that it is whom one knows, not who one knows, that matters.  Oxymorons such as “instant classic” and “new tradition” lead me to conclude that some people do not understand classics and traditions are old-certainly neither instant nor new.  And I cringe when I read or hear “impact” as a verb, in lieu of “influence” or “affect.”  I am a beneficiary of some excellent English teachers.

I realize that language changes.  I know, for example, that “prevent” used to mean “precede.”  It makes sense, after all; the combination of “pre” and “event” gives us “prevent.”  Yet I am no postmodernist.  No, I am an unabashed modernist (in the sense of Enlightenment modernism) with regard to language and other matters.  I affirm that words mean what they mean.  So, for example, when I consult the Merriam-Webster website and read that, according to those linguistic lords, I may use “literally” hyperbolically to mean “figuratively” without being incorrect, I object.  Most dictionaries describe, not proscribe, the meaning of words, as popular culture determines those definitions.  My inner linguistic Federalist chafes against the Jeffersonian Republican character of most dictionaries.

In old dictionaries “impact,” as a verb, means (A) to become wedged in somewhere and (B) to collide with something or someone.  Note, O reader, the physicality of the verb.  The main example of the correct use of “impact” as a verb in media that comes to my mind comes from Endgame (1997), an episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998).   Captain James, aboard the E.A.S. Agamemnon during the climactic battle against forces loyal to the dictatorial Earth Alliance President William Morgan Clark, shouts that missiles are

impacting on all sides.

I seldom hear and read correct uses of “impact” as a verb, however.

During the last few years I have noticed with much dismay and gnashing of teeth the increased frequency of people using “impact” as a verb (and, by extension, the gerund “impacting”) in popular culture, in casual conversation, on National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation, on academic websites, in job descriptions, and in academic writing.  In more than one book (of mine) I have crossed through “impact” and written “influence” or “affect.”  I have also written an anti-impact policy into my college syllabi.  Based on essays I have graded, I have concluded that many students have not read my syllabi.

I enjoy a certain elegance of language and encourage a healthy respect for the English tongue.  The evisceration of English that I have been witnessing for years disturbs me.  Perhaps the best I can do is (A) to encourage the proper use of language and (B) to model that use of English.  I do the best I can.




This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.


Posted June 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Language

Tagged with , ,

Feast of Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai (April 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Marianne (Right) Standing Beside the Corpse of St. Damien

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Missionary Priest

Born as Joseph de Veuster



Roman Catholic Nun

Born Maria Anna Barbara Koob

Roman Catholic feast day = January 23


The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives of these two saints on April 15.  This joint commemoration is appropriate, given the overlapping of their lives and their work among lepers in Hawaii.

Joseph de Veuster, born in Belgium on January 3, 1840, came from a farming family.  A the age of 18 he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  The following year he made vows and received the name Damien, after one half of the ancient team of physicians and martyrs Sts. Cosmas and Damian (died in 287).

The first case of Hansen’s Disease in Hawaii dated to 1840.  The number of cases increased during the ensuing years and so alarmed the royal government that the Kingdom of Hawaii established the leper colony on the remote island of Molokai in 1863.  Authorities forced anyone found to have the disease to live in the colony.  Residents of the colony, dropped off and abandoned, had to survive as best they could.  After they died, burial in shallow graves ensued.  Animals consumed their corpses.

1863 was also the year St. Damien arrived in Hawaii.  He went in lieu of his older brother, originally scheduled to make the journey, but who had fallen ill.  St. Damien, ordained to the priesthood in 1864, ministered among native Hawaiians, built chapels, and brought many people to Christ for nine years before he requested to become a missionary to the lepers of Molokai Island.  So it came to pass that, in 1873, our saint became priest to the lepers, whom he did not shun.  No, he provided for the spiritual and physical needs.  He built a church, dug deep graves, changed dressings, et cetera.  Eventually he became a leper himself; he joined the ranks of the pariahs, even in the eyes of his bishop.  Sister (also St.) Marianne Cope met him in 1884 and became his sole caregiver two years later.

Maria Anna Barbara Koob, born in Heppenheim, Hesse, in January 23, 1838, emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York, with her family the following year.  Her parents anglicized the family name to Cope.  When Maria Anna was a child her father became an invalid, so she had to work, to help to support her family.  After her family died in 1862, Maria Anna joined the Sisters of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York, becoming Sister Marianne.  In 1870 she became a nurse administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Syracuse.  She admitted even socially undesirable patients, such as alcoholics.  Some criticized her for doing this.

St. Marianne arrived in Hawaii in 1883.  She had volunteered after reading a plea for people to work with lepers.  Immediately she became the supervisor of the receiving center for all lepers in the Kingdom of Hawaii.  Later she opened a care center for lepers’ healthy children.  And, from 1886 to 1889, she was the sole caregiver of St. Damien.

Toward the end of his life St. Damien experienced physical, emotional, and spiritual distress.  He had ministered to lepers as long as he could, but eventually he ceased to be physically capable of doing so.  He even became a pariah to his bishop.  At least St. Damien had caregivers, including St. Marianne, so he knew he was not abandoned.  St. Damien died on April 15, 1889.  He was 49 years old.

From 1889 to 1918 St. Marianne continued her work with Hawaiian lepers.  To be precise, she operated a series of homes for young lepers.  She died of natural causes on August 9, 1918, aged 80 years.

Pope John Paul II beatified St. Damien in 1995.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized the priest in 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified St. Marianne in 2005.  Pope Francis canonized her in 2012.

As I ponder the lives of these saints, I conclude that a few lines of verse apply well:

The peace of God, it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for but one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.

–William Alexander Percy, “They Cast Their Nets in Galilee,” in The Hymnal 1982 (1985), #661

Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Sometimes obeying that order places one in peril and at least leads to the possibility of an unpleasant demise.  Those who answer that call readily put the rest of us to shame.





God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne,

who ministered to the lepers abandoned at Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands.

Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time,

that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with

you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 103:13-22

1 Corinthians 4:9-13

Matthew 11:1-6

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 329


Feast of George Frederick Handel (April 14)   5 comments

Above:  Handel

Image in the Public Domain




Also known as Georg Friedrich Handel and George Frideric Handel


I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.



The feast day of this saint in The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is July 28.  The Episcopal Church adds Johann Sebastian Bach and Henry Purcell to that feast.  The ELCA/ELCIC version of the feast is Heinrich Schutz, J. S. Bach, and G. F. Handel.  My strategy in this matter is to break those two feasts apart, as I have begun to do.

Handel was a child prodigy.  He was a child of the 63-year-old Georg Handel (a barber-surgeon) and Dorothea Taust, of Halle.  Our saint, born on February 23, 1685 (Julian Calendar)/March 5, 1685 (Gregorian Calendar), played the organ at the ducal court at Weissenfells at the tender age of eight years.  The following year Handel began to study composition and various instruments under Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau, an organist at Halle.  By the age of ten years Handel had at least six sonatas for oboe and continue to his credit.

Georg Handel, who died in 1697,  wanted our saint to become an attorney.  So it came to pass that young Handel studied law at the University of Halle.  Our saint completed that course of study, per the wishes of his late father, although he had begun to support himself as a church musician.  Handel, although a Lutheran, was organist at a Reformed church.

Handel became a musician and composer.  Among his friends was composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), whom he met in college.  From 1703 to 1706 Handel worked in Hamburg, a center of German opera.  He played the violin and the harpsichord in the opera orchestra there.  Our saint also wrote the St. John Passion and this first two operas (Almira and Nero) at Hamburg.

Handel spent 1706-1710 in Italy.  There he visited Florence, Rome, Naples, and Venice, met major Italian composers, and composed major works, including operas.

After completing his Italian tour Handel went to work as the musical director for Georg Ludwig, the Elector of Hanover (and, starting in 1714, King George I of Great Britain).  Our saint visited London, where he debuted his opera Rinaldo, in 1711.  The following year he settled in that city.  In 1726 he became a naturalized British subject.

Handel was a great composer.  He and J. S. Bach, who was unlike him in many ways, wrote much of the best music of the Baroque Era.  The great Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), citing Messiah (1741), declared that Handel was “the master of us all.”  Handel’s vast catalog of compositions included instrumental and vocal music, from the Water Music to operas to oratorios on Biblical topics (Messiah, Judas Maccabaeus, Samson, Esther, Israel in Egyptet cetera).

Handel, a lifelong bachelor, enjoyed life and lived it well.  The man who demonstrated the ability to speak three languages in the same sentence was generous of spirit and gave liberally to charities; he had much to share with the less fortunate.  He, although a solitary figure, enjoyed parties, good food, and fine wine.  He did not hold grudges and, when he realized that he had caused offense, was quick to apologize.

Handel died in London on April 14, 1759, aged 74 years.  The site of his burial was Westminster Abbey.

I intend no disrespect to lawyers when I write that it is fortunate for the world that Handel became a composer, not an attorney.







Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness,

who teaches us in Holy Scriptures to sing your praises and who gave your

musician George Frederick Handel grace to show forth your glory in his music:

Be with all those who write or make music for your people,

that we on earth may glimpse your beauty and know the

inexhaustible riches of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Savior;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 7:1-6

Psalm 150

Colossians 2:2-6

Luke 2:8-14

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 491


Site of the Former Parsonage, Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia   4 comments

Related to my previous post is this one.

I visited Google Earth again and saved some pictures of the Vidette United Methodist Church, the former parsonage (in street view, dated January 2008 and August 2008) and of the site where the parsonage was (from above, dated October 30, 2016).  Then I cropped one of those images, inserted it into a Word document, and dredged up memories from 1980-1982.

I have examined this fuzzy image, for which I have no street view counterpart yet.  I have noticed the shadow in it–presumably from a chimney.  In my bedroom I did have a closed-up fireplace with a heater in front of it.  That chimney had therefore marked one corner of the site of my former bedroom.

My memories regarding the dining room are vague.  I recall about where it was (between the kitchen and my sister’s bedroom), but I do not recall the relative size of the room.  I am likewise vague about the size of the kitchen.  It was a small house, however, so none of the rooms was cavernous.

I will not post any of the saved images, except for scan of a printed, black-and-white version of a cropped satellite photograph.  I do, however, encourage any of you who might to curious to look up Vidette in Google Earth, find the church and the site of the parsonage next to it.  Finding the church should not be difficult, for the town is really small.



Memories of Vidette, Georgia   7 comments

Vidette UMC 01

Vidette United Methodist Church 1980-1982


I have been spending much time using Google Earth recently.  In particular I have been examining satellite and street view images of Vidette, Georgia, in western Burke County, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.   My father was the pastor of the Vidette-Friendship-Greens Cut United Methodist Charge.  I was seven, eight, and nine years old at the time, so I did not pay attention to most of the local ecclesiastical matters.  (Battle of the Planets, a dreadful  and frequently nonsensical American dubbing of a superior Japanese cartoon series, was much more interesting to me.)  I have learned, however, that the responsibility for the move in 1982 was a joint matter shared by my father and certain lay members.  Moving away was also a blessing.

Vidette Parsonage 01

The Parsonage, 1980-1982. My sister’s bedroom was on the right. The front room was in the center, off the porch. My bedroom was to the left, behind the twin windows at the porch.

The parsonage, located next to Vidette United Methodist Church, was in need of repair.  It was an old structure with one bathroom, no corridors, and no central air or heating.  The den was a narrow room in the middle-back section of the house, located between the master bedroom and the bathroom on one side and the kitchen and the dining room on the other.

Vidette Parsonage 02

I come from a bookish family.

Vidette Parsonage 04

The den. The dining room was to the left and the bathroom as to the right. My sister’s bedroom was to the left, through the front room. My bedroom was to the right, through the front room.

Vidette Parsonage 03

Look at me!

How many parishioners would have chosen to live in a house in that condition?  But the structure was good enough for the pastor and his family, right?  No!

The front room, just off the front porch, separated my sister’s bedroom from mine.  My bedroom, facing onto the front porch, was obviously supposed to be the pastor’s study, for it had a built-in closet and lacked a closet.  It had to be my bedroom, however, for there was no other room.  It was good to have the use of a built-in bookcase, however.  The large heater provided heat during the winter.  I dressed in front of it on cold mornings.

Much of life during the main part of the week during the school year occurred in Waynesboro, the county seat.  There we visited the bakery some Mennonites owned.  In that town my mother worked in the city hall and my sister and I attended school.

Vidette UMC 02


1980-1982 were not good years for me.  I was struggling with life.  Certainly moving every few years did not help with regard to that matter.  I was not very sociable, and not just because of my introversion.  So I was possibly the worst Cub Scout ever.  At least I tried to be sociable, I suppose.  When we moved away, I terminated my involvement in the Cub Scouts.  Also, my physical awkwardness (evident in P.E.) contributed to my social awkwardness, as some of my classmates took the opportunity to mock me.  When my third grade class received Honorable Mention in the dodgeball tournament at Waynesboro Elementary School, many classmates blamed me.  Also, when (not by my doing) classmates learned of my middle name (Randolph), I became “Randolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  My friend was Ola Mae Bailey, the kindly elderly woman who lived next door.  She did more for me than perhaps she knew.

Did I mention that I have never really wanted to have children?  My childhood experiences contributed to this decision.

The South Georgia Conference has broken up the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut Charge.  As of last week, when the most recent round of ministerial appointments took effect:

  1. Vidette went onto a charge with Mt. Moriah, north of Matthews, in Jefferson County.  (By the way, I recall a pulpit exchange that took my father to Mt. Moriah one Sunday in 1980-1982.)
  2. Friendship was on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro.
  3. Green’s Cut was a station church.

There have been changes to structures since 1982:

  1. Vidette U.M.C. has expanded its fellowship hall and covered the gap between the back of the church and the front of the fellowship hall.
  2. Eventually Vidette U.M.C. ceased to use its deteriorating parsonage.

The Google Earth street view image (dated August 2012) of the house shows a decrepit, abandoned building.  Plywood covers one half of the front windows of my sister’s former bedroom.  In the satellite view (dated October 30, 2016), however, the parsonage is absent.  I get the impression that the demolition of the house must have been fairly recent, based on the obviousness of where the parsonage had been.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I recall events, scenes, and routines.  I think of (God help me!) The Lawrence Welk Show.  I recall the church hayride through the local cemetery one Halloween.  I also remember that, one Halloween (I suppose), some people bobbed for apples outside the front of the fellowship hall.  I recall the Sunday morning that Buddy the dog went to church.  I also remember watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Greatest American Hero, and Pink Panther cartoons.  I recall my sister watching the Fame series, before it went into syndication.  I also remember the town park and the only store in town.  I recall ecumenical engagements with the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (disbanded a few years ago), whose pastor had an obsession with the Book of Revelation.  One of their vacation Bible schools sticks in my memory.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I realize how fortunate I am not to live there any longer and to live in Athens-Clarke County.  I thank God in real time for what I have.




The Definite Article   Leave a comment

Above:  The

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


One should use the definite article (the) cautiously.  I argue this point, for I prefer to speak and write accurately.  I also like for others to do the same.  The misuse of “the” renders one’s argument objectively false by overstating one’s case.  Such shoddy discourse annoys me.

As I have noticed, many college students have been (and are) overly found of “the.”  During my years of teaching U.S. history survey courses in college, I have emphasized the fact that many colonists in what became the United States remained loyal to the British Empire during the American Revolutionary period.  In stating this plainly I have manifested fidelity to objective reality.  I have also instructed pupils both orally and in writing not to write of “the colonists” as if all colonists were of one political mind and warned these students.  Nevertheless, many students have not heeded my instructions to write of the past accurately in their essays.  I have graded those essays accordingly.

Another fault of misusing “the” is applying it in the spirit of invective.

The ______s insert negative stereotype here.

Infamously, for example, the Gospel of John mentions “the Jews” (in most English-language translations), although the Greek word is actually a geographical term sometimes.  Whether the term should be “the Jews” or “the Judeans” in English in any given verse, the issue of invective remains.  In the case of the Gospel of John, how can one avoid reading those passages without considering the millennia of Christian anti-Semitism inspired partially by the invective in that text?

In 2017 we continue to have problems with invective, often expressed with the misuse of the definite article.  Human nature is constant, after all.  One might engage in partisan invective, for example.  Or one might be a racist or some other variety of bigot, perhaps with regard to religion.  Or maybe one might be merely an unrepentant ethnocentrist and Nativist.  Either way, one engages in stereotyping, thereby overlooking the diversity inherent in any population.  One therefore engages in the sin of judging others.  One also makes objectively false statements.

Shall we strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and to think, speak, and write objectively correctly?