I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a Grammar Nazi.
Nein, nein, es ist wahr.
It’s a bit of an occupational hazard, when you spend more than two decades working as a writer and editor. (But I may have the cause and effect backwards there – I might be a wordsmith because I’m a word Nazi at heart, rather than the other way ’round.)
But either way…
- It drives me batty when people confuse your and you’re.
- My pulse quickens when people use apostrophes to pluralize words.
- The reason for the confusion for when to use their, they’re and there is completely foreign to me, and has been since about Grade 3.
- My skin crawls when people pronounce mischievous as a four-syllable word. (It’s not mis-chee-vee-ous. It’s mis-chev-ous. Always has been, always will be. Look where the second ‘i’ is, folks.)
Umm, Baldy, if grammatical abominations frustrate you so much, why do you practically live on Facebook?
A fair question. I must have a masochistic streak or something.
Another teeth-grinder for me is the pseudo-word irregardless.
This is an inadvertent portmanteau of two real words – irrespective and regardless – whose meanings are similar.
Now, it should be noted that irregardless is used often enough that it’s in the dictionary, and therefore it’s technically a word. But it’s usually described in these dictionaries as being ‘nonstandard’, and in some cases the entry is there only to tell people not to use it. The ‘ir’ and the ‘less’ cancel each other out, and instead of meaning ‘without regard’ it literally means ‘with regard’. But regardless of this reality, and irrespective of the fact that there’s no downside to using ‘regardless’ or ‘irrespective’, instead, and yet people insist on using this lingual abomination.
Even people who really ought to know better. In a past decade, there was a running feud between a couple of reporter/proofreaders in one of the newsrooms in which I worked, over this very topic. (The fact that the issue is ridiculously trivial and completely cut-and-dry, and yet the squabble became pretty heated and continued for months, gives you a window into the reasons you should be glad you’re not a journalist.)
But regardless of my disdain for this term, I may have come across an appropriate (in my own mind) use for it this week.
You see, one of the things that comes with being a word geek and a Jesus freak is that I sometimes explore my faith by examining the connotative and denotative meanings of the imperfect, man-made words we use to try to describe our faith. It can be pedantic and frustrating as heliotrope, but occasionally, this exercise leads to something useful.
Case in point, the other day I was pondering this question: Does God love and forgive us because of, or in spite of, who and what we are?
You could suggest that the correct way to answer this either-or question is with a ‘Yes’. God loves us because He made us in His image, and therefore there is something loveable and beautiful and awesome in each of us. And God also loves us in spite of what we’ve allowed ourselves to become.
But I’m not sure if categorizing the answer as a ‘both and’ quite does justice to how vast the grace of God really is.
Is it more accurate to say that God loves us regardless of who we are? That He doesn’t even regard our strengths and weaknesses when He looks at us? That the only factor that enters into this equation is the fact that we’re His?
‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.‘ – Romans 5:6-8
God loves us so much that in His economy, the completely unjustified persecution, torture and murder of a perfect, fully and completely innocent man who happened to also be God Himself – at the very hands of the people He came to save – is the very act through which those people can be saved.
So maybe even ‘regardless’ isn’t a big enough word to do justice to a love that’s that undeniable and unconditional and irresistible and immovable.
Maybe God’s grace is so vast, so unmerited, so inexhaustible and so upside-down that the double negative nature of the non-word word ‘irregardless‘ makes more sense than any ‘real’ words.
‘God loves us irregardless of who and what we are.’
Yeah, I think I like that.
It’s been said that when it comes to pondering the Trinity, you have to be a bad mathematician to be a good theologian. And now, I wonder if when it comes to wrapping your head around the love and grace of God, you have to be a bad wordsmith, too.
Peace be with you.